Donovan (2017) – review
I was fortunate to be asked to review a movie called “Donovan” by the writer of the film. Donovan tells the story of bipolar sufferer Donovan Drake. Donovan is played by Jason Bee who has bipolar disorder himself. And just like the illness, Jason has many guises. He not only stars in the movie but he also wrote, directed, and produced the piece. It took Jason 5 years of hard work to create the 1h40m movie. You can view the trailer at the end of this article.
The story is that of Donovan trying to treat his illness, at times self-medicating leading to addiction, while working as an advertising director. He sees a psychiatrist who gives him signed notes as proof he is seeking professional treatment. This is to allow Donovan to see his son (played by one of Jason’s two sons, both of whom are in the film) who lives with his mum and Donovans ex-wife. The relationship between Donovan and his son is essentially that of a loving and caring one.
Tackling mental illness in a feature film format
Although the film is about the illness, this is not a cold, clinical film. This an entertaining and at times thrilling ride, just like bipolar mania.
Bipolar in simple terms: In bipolar the individual’s mood swings between the states of mania, depression and periods of stability. Mania is an overwhelming feeling of euphoria, while depression is a debilitating feeling of worthlessness and fatigue. There are five types of bipolar disorder.
Right from the start, the movie places you into a disorientating and brightly coloured scene. This is very much how bipolar can feel. You can feel like you’re in a whirlwind of colour sometimes when manic for example. In fact, colour plays its own role in the movie. At the beginning of one scene, a purple shirt (purple is the colour associated with bipolar) is almost fluorescent. And at the end of the scene, the same shirt is a dull dark purple.
How the movie shows the two sides of bipolar disorder
When manic, colours are very bright and vivid, you have boundless energy and don’t feel the need for sleep. Donovan says the same thing I’ve said many times when manic; “Sleep’s a waste of time.” The euphoric feeling makes you feel like you’re invincible, like a superhero. And in fact, the name of the lead character Donovan Drake sounds very much like an alter ego, think of Bruce Banner for example. This is by no means a coincidence, the references to superheroes throughout the film do not go unnoticed.
The exact opposite to mania is the depression which can feel like you’re trudging through a dark tunnel half filled with gloopy mud. You’re always tired, and the simplest chore seems too much.
Ignorance and stigma in mental illnesses
The movie shows very much how people can be so ignorant of mental illness. Donovans best friend thinks that schizophrenia is the same as bipolar at one point. But the film also shows how difficult it can be to describe the feelings of mental illness to a loved one.
This is why many people with mental illnesses, especially bipolar, wear masks and become actors themselves. There is a significant motif for the mask throughout the movie which brings some light humour to the film.
Mental illness is serious!
The movie shows how a serious mental illness such as bipolar affects everyone, including family, friends, and coworkers. It shows how important it is to educate those around people with a mental illness, and how they can do more harm than good. Addiction is a big problem with bipolar. 56% bipolar sufferers have had a drug or alcohol addiction.
Essentially though, the story is one of education, and redemption – a story of those that stick by you, and those that forgive you.
How can I watch Donovan?
Donovan is available to view from $3.99 at the official website.