Despite the growing prevalence of mental illness in America — nearly 1 in 5 adults in the US are living with one — its depiction in film betrays an unwillingness to reckon with it.
Faced with the task of crafting mentally ill characters, writers often resort to crass hints (benzos discovered in the medicine cabinet), crude comedy (Asperger’s as a punchline), or a clunky designation as someone’s entire raison d’être (Rain Man). If the characters are protagonists, they’re victims. If they’re villains, it’s because of their sickness.
Fear of Rain, a new YA thriller written and directed by Castille Landon, is advocating for a better approach. The film — available now wherever you buy or rent movies — follows Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman), a 16-year-old living with schizophrenia who begins to suspect that her teacher and next-door neighbor (Eugenie Bondurant) is concealing evidence of a terrible crime.
Anyone looking for a light Nancy Drew caper is in for a jolt: The film’s portrayal of mental illness is visceral, almost immersive. Landon makes ample use of jump scares, shrill voices, and shadowy figures to represent both the real and imagined dimensions of Rain’s world. The viewer can rarely be certain of whether what they’re seeing is “real,” and might find themselves running through the same checklist that Rain’s therapist has trained her to use whenever she suspects a hallucination: Is this possible? Could it happen here? Is anyone else reacting?
BuzzFeed spoke with writer-director Landon about her research for the film’s nuanced depiction of schizophrenia in its protagonist, and what she hopes audiences can take away from it.