dir: Justine Bateman
Violet feels, at least from my limited perspective, like one of the most insightful and realistic depictions of what it could be like trying to survive in life while coping with severe anxiety. I say this not because I have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and nor am I trying to co-opt the lived experiences of the many people I know living with them. Or those no longer living with them.
I don’t know, I don’t pretend to know, but I do have two things: a level of hypochondria that at least, when I’m watching something, convinces me I must have the thing a character is experiencing, which fades a little while after a film ends, and a capacity for feeling very overwhelmed and anxious when watching movies about people experiencing overwhelming anxiety.
While I can reel off a whole bunch of films that have made me feel very anxious while watching them, through editing choices, cinematography choices, sound editing or performance, I’m not so self-involved that I think that is the same, or even comparable to the experience of generalised anxiety or the other myriad variations on the disorder. Getting anxious during a roller coaster ride makes sense. The real issue is experiencing that level of anxiety when you’re NOT on the roller coaster ride, and people are wondering why the choice of dairy milk or almond milk for your latte has reduced you to sobbing in a café, and you can’t explain it because you don’t know yourself.
If there are aspects that I can relate to, well, they’re more universal. Paralyzing self-doubt, self-consciousness, lashing out at people trying to help – many of us do that shit even without anxiety, so, yeah, can relate. This, being a character study of a person with extreme anxiety, brings us into the mindset of the main character, Violet (Olivia Munn), with extensive use of voiceover, but also with some other stylistic tricks, like having words appear on the screen, in cursive writing, sometimes letting us see how Violet really feels or what she really wishes, when her words, and the voice of her inner critic, are saying the diametric opposite.