Brittany Snow knows firsthand how important it is to feel seen, having once felt like there were no movies that captured her own struggles. And when it comes to telling stories about mental health, there isn't one movie that could encompass everyone's different experiences.
"I think many times we get the same type of story surrounding mental health. The person can't cope, they lose all hope, they go to rehab, things change and the movie ends," she says. "For me, it's not only about the breakdown, the fallout and the rehabilitation. Sometimes, it's about just living day to day, and trying to simply be a human being."
Snow will make her directorial debut with September 17th, which she co-wrote, about a young woman who struggles with food and body image issues and has recently been discharged from rehab. "If anyone walks away from the film and feels 'seen,' then maybe I have done my job."
Below, Snow shares with A.frame six films (and one honorable mention) that she feels have contributed meaningful representations of mental health struggles and addition, and thus, have resonated with her throughout her life.
Written and Directed by: John Cassavetes
The energy in this movie is palpable. Every scene makes me feel anxious and unsettled. Cassavetes has such a transgressive quality to his films and accurately encapsulates, for me, the elephant in the room that permeates every conversation dealing with addiction. I cited this film a lot and especially when the character Nick says "just be yourself" to Mabel. It's one of the most heartbreaking moments and a theme in September 17th. A question I've asked myself and I'm hoping to pose as well is, how can one "be themselves" when you are actively addicted to the destruction of yourself?
Directed by: Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen Written by: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
I've proudly seen this movie more times than most kids. I think it's genius and such a beautiful depiction of the mind and understanding emotions. Even with everything I've read or learned about my own mind, sometimes watching this movie makes the lesson of it all so simple. "It's okay and human to feel it all."
Directed and written by: Bo Burnham
I truly think this is a near-perfect movie. I watched it many times in preparation for September 17th because of the feeling it evokes. I love how Bo Burnham didn't set out to make a grandiose statement about social media or make any overreaching conclusions about the complexities of anxiety. He simply described "anxiety" and accurately portrayed it within the thoughts and feelings of a 13-year-old girl.
Directed and written by: Trey Edward Shults
An overwhelmingly powerful and devastatingly accurate film about family. The performances by Trey Edward Shultz's own family in this are jaw dropping. Every time I've seen this film, I find more nuances in how skillfully the story is unfolded. Like a panic attack come to life, it really makes you feel for all the characters — even if they are not the one directly battling addiction. The movie highlights such an important topic: How addiction is felt throughout an entire family system.
Directed by: Robert Redford Written by: Alvin Sargent
I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid and it made me feel very unsettled. Maybe because I really felt it, and maybe because I couldn’t comprehend how the world worked in this way. As I've seen it again later — now with many of my own ideas of parenting, loss, therapy and the façade of an unstable family system — it has stuck with me as perhaps my young recognition of something familiar. Obviously, as a Best Picture winner, I think everyone related to it, too. It's a classic for a reason, and was an important catalyst for change in how we saw mental health in our own families.
Directed by: Darius Marder Written by: Darius Marder and Abraham Marder
One of my favorite movies of the last few years. Seemingly, it's about Ruben losing his hearing and becoming a part of the deaf community but it's really about spirituality in a way. For me, it is a journey to find stillness and presence. I am not the epitome of stillness, but this movie puts you in Ruben's place and makes you reflect on your own presence. The characters are individually walking through their own mental health journeys, and choose themselves over codependency in the end. It's an amazing depiction of recovery when given life's hardest obstacles.
Directed and written by: Darren Aronofsky
This was the first movie that I had a visceral response to. I remember actually rolling around on the floor crying. If any movie has captured addiction in its most haunting and heart-piercing form, it's this one. I can't even hear the soundtrack without having a full body response. The only reason it's an honorable mention is because of how hard it is for me to watch. Then again, that's a good thing, since it was so powerful.