Movie Review: ‘ELIZABETH BLUE’ – aesthetically pleasing, narratively disconnected

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

ELIZABETH BLUE

Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.
Director: Vincent Sabella
Cast: Anna SchaferRyan VincentAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeKathleen Quinlan and Christopher Ashman

While we, as a society, learn more about personality and the differences between us all, one of the most misunderstood aspects of being human is our psychology. As stigmas surrounding homosexuality and race are subject to punishment, there is still the uncertainty of mental and emotional disorder. Different things make it uncomfortable to address at times, and the education of these very real human issues get lost in the narrative shuffle.

First-time director Vincent Sabella sought to make a film that could better depict what it’s like to live with mental illness, mostly by using experiences in dealing with his own mental illness. His creation is known as ELIZABETH BLUE, whose titular character has been released from a mental hospital and into her fiancee’s custody, as they figure out how to balance her illness with the normal facets of being a couple.

As we are introduced to Elizabeth (Anna Schafer), there is an established tension between her and her mother (Kathleen Quinlan). She belittles her about her illnesses, while Elizabeth informs her of her decision to live with, and marry, Grant (Ryan Vincent). Through her relationships these people, as well as her therapist Dr. Bowman (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the groundwork is laid surrounding her battle with schizophrenia, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The problem, however, lies within the execution. While Schafer’s Elizabeth has depth and understanding, the surrounding parts don’t mesh well at all. There is great care in exhibiting what Elizabeth is going through, whether it’s non-diegetic sound (such as Vivaldi or a roaring train) or extreme close-ups of her ticks. It’s clear that Sabella knows the central elements personally as they reflect Elizabeth. The cinematography also has a nice look to it, especially the scenes between her and Dr. Bowman.

The other characters are either too cliché or act as a reaction to Elizabeth’s troubles. Grant is all over the place, so much so he’s almost unlikable. For example, when Elizabeth has her first full-blown schizophrenic episode, Grant yells at her to relax until he can’t handle it and slaps her; he “just didn’t know what to do.” He comes off as ignorant for someone who chooses to spend the rest of his life with this woman. Also, the dialogue can be cheesy at times, which is a detriment when the movie has many slow moments.

ELIZABETH BLUE is a good visual start for Sabella’s beginning as a director, and a great showcase for Anna Schafer as an actress. However, it can’t overcome its flaws with the surrounding relationships and shaky dialogue, losing any real education in the social struggles of mental illness.

Grade: C-

ELIZABETH BLUE is now playing in select markets.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.