Director Says That Smile’s Treatment of Mental Illness is Messy on Purpose

Whether or whether viewers have dealt with mental illness in themselves or a loved one influences how they react to the very unsettling horror picture that ends with a grin. The horror in grin is quite basic; there are plenty of jump scares and unsettling images designed to give viewers nightmares. But it is also mostly about the experience of carrying the burden of anxiety, trauma, or other forms of psychological distress, and the difficulty of communicating that burden to others.

When asked by Polygon about the film’s accessibility, writer/director Parker Finn said, “I think it’s really relevant.” The film had its world debut at Fantastic Fest. “Everyone has these things within them, depending on their experiences and trauma, and it colors everything they do. That’s why I wanted to investigate what it’s like when your mind starts to work against you by using it. A major worry of mine is just that.

Finn thinks that worry and anxiety have developed their own pandemic as a result of the COVID-19 quarantines. During the epidemic, “when I suppose we were all frightened and suffering a sense of isolation and dread of transmission,” he adds, “I conceived and composed and eventually shot this video.” “The concept that tragedy may generate further trauma was actually present in my thoughts, and I guess it simply slipped into the screenplay,” the writer said.

Finn thinks it’s better now than it would have been a few years ago to talk about his sentiments because they are so widespread. As a culture, I feel like we’ve begun to address this issue more openly. Finn opines, “I feel it in the air.” “It’s common knowledge that everybody’s had some kind of baggage they’re not talking about, whether it’s a major tragedy or something smaller.”

The film’s core image, a dreadful false grin that betrays something extremely unpleasant going on, represents the way people have historically avoided dealing with or talking about these experiences. The grin, he explains, is a metaphor for, and a mask of, the pain that we all wear to hide from the world.

Smile's Treatment of Mental Illness

The heroine of Rose (Sosie Bacon) is processing significant trauma, from unresolved childhood debts and dread of her mother’s death to being tormented by an unseen entity that can make her see horrible things. She is a therapist, so she is used to hearing others call her sad patients “mad” and write off their lives as useless. Rose’s sister and fiancé both brush her off when she asks for assistance in coping with the monster.

Finn says he aimed to create an immersive experience so that viewers might “place themselves in the shoes of another” and “maybe look at them” (other people’s experiences and traumas) in ways they hadn’t before. Fear of being disbelieved, especially by those closest to us, is a universal fear that I believe touches everyone. That’s unbelievable.

In order to balance out the more magical aspects of to grin, Finn insisted that Rose’s actions and responses be as grounded in reality as possible. He then had psychiatrists assist in shaping her persona before saying, “let you read the screenplay and weigh it.”

To smile’s complexity stems from the fact that viewers may empathize with Rose’s family and friends, even though they are scared and even enraged by her actions. Finn intended for the audience to feel conflicted, but he was certain that they would ultimately choose Rose’s side.

“I wanted to trust the audience and respect their knowledge and emotions,” he adds. “I think there’s always a balance.” Plus, I enjoy chaotic films a lot. Ultimately, I hope that individuals will experience a range of emotions. Yes, there are occasions when you actively seek out conflict with them. You want your audience to feel something, whether it’s pity or empathy, but you also want to make it as difficult as possible for them. That means it’s successful as a film, right?

Finn invites the listener to laugh and grin. This is “my attempt to add to the debate” regarding those with mental illness and those going through an inner crisis in a way that may be hard for onlookers to understand.

To a certain extent, I believe that society has become more open to discussing issues related to mental health, including treatment, trauma, and so on. Still, we have a ways to go. There is a lack of comprehension of this. That’s why I wanted to draw parallels with it and use it as a springboard to investigate a topic that, I hoped, would get others to imagine what it would be like to go through something similar.

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