Katherine Heigl is having a comeback this year, with one of her projects being Fear Of Rain — a movie that centres on teenager Rain Burroughs (played by Madison Iseman) and her experiences after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Directed by Castille Landon, the film portrays this through Rain's everyday struggle in determining which of the vivid images, voices and intense feelings she experiences are real and which are not.
While attempting to navigate this, Rain's relationship with her parents (played by Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr.) becomes strained — especially after they don't believe Rain's declaration of their next door neighbour harbouring a dark secret.
Now, although Fear Of Rain is being billed as a thriller, it's so much more than that. It deals with loss, pain and grief, as well as the stigma surrounding schizophrenia. In fact, the director's greatest priority with this movie was to "shatter stereotypes of portraying persons with serious mental illness as dangerous villains, unworthy of love."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Heigl touched on these themes, saying that it was important for her to be in this film because of her own experiences with mental health.
"About two years ago, I kind of peaked with my own mental health issues...I just couldn't stop certain thoughts and most of them were terrifying and scary and that somebody was going to hurt my children."
"I was just coming out of it when I read this script [for Fear of Rain] and I just felt like, 'Oh my god, I don't know what living with schizophrenia would be like, but I knew what living with fear was — especially a fear that I couldn't seem to control.'"
According to Heigl, the emotions of Fear Of Rain resonated with her so much that she had to create a safe space in her trailer to come back to after filming scenes.
"I don't typically have a hard time divorcing myself from material or stepping away from it, but it [Fear Of Rain] was like sensory recall in a way."
"So, [after filming] I would sit in my trailer and draw. I would paint and I would listen to music that felt easy — nothing that ignited any real intense emotions so I could just kind of back away."
Speaking alongside his Fear Of Rain co-star in the same interview, Harry Connick Jr. was singing the praises of Heigl and hoped that they could work together again.
"Katherine, I have to say you're heroic. To be able to be film with this intensity while you were dealing with something on your own. I'm a little taken aback...because I just learned about that today.
"She's more amazing today than when I woke up this morning. So Katherine, I sure hope we can work together again".
In response to this, Heigl said that would be a dream come true. "I am a huge fan [of Harry] and I have been for a good long while. He just really exceeded my expectations with not only being charming, but charismatic and lovely and hilarious as well... [which] was a beautiful thing during those often very heavy, very intense scenes and days of work."
With this movie's development being influenced by Landon's exploration of schizophrenia in young people, Connick Jr. hopes that Fear Of Rain will continue to spark important conversations surrounding mental illness and their destigmatisation.
"I would love for younger people to use this film as a continuation of their already growing awareness of mental health and to hopefully use it to educate themselves, but their parents and grandparents too."
Heigl added to this, saying: "I hope that those of us who don’t know or don’t understand or haven’t had much of an education will come away with a better sense of compassion and empathy. And then those of us who have suffered or who have dealt with some mental health issues hopefully will feel compelled and safe to share it and to talk about it and to seek help and counsel."
"I don't want any person going through this life thinking they're alone in something they have no control over. They're not alone, that's the worst thing to think."
Fear Of Rain is available now wherever you buy or rent movies. And if you need more convincing to see it, go watch the trailer or this sneak peek.