THE OTHER HALF: An Unconventional Love Story That Speaks Volumes
The Other Half is a balanced portrait of not only a tangible and tender romance, but of a subject so little-seen in film; mental illness.
Taking the word ‘understated’ to new levels, The Other Half does an incredible job of making us connect with a fascinating love story in the most restrained and reserved ways.
Joey Klein‘s independent romance film is essentially a psychological drama that centres on a passionate love affair between a self-destructive drifter and a bipolar woman. The Other Half is a moving and realistic representation of how mental illness can affect family, relationships and ultimately, our everyday lives.
This refreshing take on modern relationships is the Canadian actor Klein’s first feature as a writer and director. His entry into the directing game is promising for the future, and has been graciously welcomed by audiences. It’s the unvarnished account of two troubled lovers navigating a path that will never be smooth – and its tone is tasteful and immersive.
Following suit with the regular themes throughout the entire movie, Nickie and Emily’s relationship has a simple and easy beginning. After catching each other’s eye at the café where Nickie works, the two strike up an instant liking for one another. Soon after meeting and developing a relationship, Nickie begins to slowly reveal the emotional weight he’s been carrying – the tragic death of his brother.
Not long after, Emily’s behavior quickly uncovers the fact that her carefree, relaxed exterior is actually shielding some deep anxieties, stemming from her bipolar disorder. Even after she persists to pretend that she has her unpredictable notions under control, the two find peace in each other in an attempt to find solace within the source of their individual sorrows.
Set in Toronto – Queen West, to be specific – The Other Half is made even more heartfelt due to the starring roles played by real-life couple Tom Cullen and Tatiana Maslany. Embodying the characters of Nickie and Emily respectively, these two souls connect as a haunted man and a bipolar woman who find refuge in each other.
It’s an impressionistic, experiential drama, situating us with its characters in bars and clubs and rooms and beds and letting us see how they are together as they find comfort and strength in each other’s broken places. Simply put, it’s real and raw and everything you want it to be from its opening scenes.
On the forefront, it sounds a little underdressed and moody. But the beauty of the movie lies beyond these impressions, because it’s obvious that Klein and his performers aren’t aiming for twinkly, corny clichés.
Klein gives Cullen and Maslany the space to burrow deeply into their tormented characters and connect without much dialogue – and the trust they have in each other as performers is remarkable to watch.
Cullen is quaintly terrific as a man who’s spent so much time locking away his feelings that he’s overwhelmed by their resurgence, and Maslany is ferocious as the unstable lover with whom he can find that much-needed balance with. We’ve seen Maslany many times before, most notably in Orphan Black, which regularly showcases her versatility, but The Other Half lets you see the full breadth of her talent in a single performance.
It’s rare that two actors can bounce off each other with such grace and remain strongly linked with chemistry from start to finish; but when it comes to this, The Other Half is certainly an exception to the otherwise generic rule.
Squashing The Stigma
There is, of course, another vital factor of this particular story that makes it a rather special one for audiences.
The true root of the movie surrounds the concepts and realism of mental illnesses and in some cases, depression, which is a rarity on-screen. Why? Because unfortunately, mental health is still considered a rather grey area in our day-to-day lives, and is something that is seldom attempted in the film industry as frequently as it should be.
These two characters perfectly portray the necessary depictions in a way that doesn’t patronise or make a spectacle out of a challenging subject. It is something that is sensitively handled from start to finish, and explores the gut-wrenching consequences and actions that so many are faced with when dealing with a mental health problem.
We get to see its impact from the sufferers themselves and those close to them, which is an achievement in itself. It’s obvious that copious research was done before the making of this film, which has resulted in a spectacular and natural tour-de-force of independent cinema.
Whilst many films before now have addressed the effects of mental illnesses in leaps and bounds, The Other Half is right up there with the best of them. It conquers the stigma surrounding the ideas of mental health and completely squashes it. We see Nickie and Emily work together to medicate each other’s problems. In a metaphorical sense, it could be said that they even act as medicine and relief for each other through the strength of their solid connection.
There are an abundance of love stories that regularly hit our screens, containing huge production statements, epic goosebump-inducing soundtracks and overly indulgent sentiment. The Other Half works precisely because it does the complete opposite of this.
It’s raw emotion at its best; with faultless acting that can be stripped down to make us all the most profound thinkers we can be. It may be fairly slow on its upkeep, but this only adds to the realness and authenticity of the narrative and its characters.
It can be argued that there is so much room in the film industry for more movies like this. Films that have thought-provoking scripts and realistic, exposed performances. These aspects challenge the typical ideologies of the more renowned romance clichés and force an audience to be truly engrossed in every moment. The Other Half is simply a modest masterpiece that shows a deep connection between two endlessly interesting characters.
Do you have a favourite independent romance movie? Let us know in the comments below!
The Other Half was released in the U.S. on 10th March and was released in the UK last week.
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