2022 97 mins
“A fascinating vision of the many ways in which damage endured in our youth can revisit us when we least expect it” – J. Hurtado, SCREEN ANARCHY
“Heimann captures the fear, panic, and exhaustion that comes from having a mentally ill parent. Not only that, he captures the terror of realizing that your parent has passed on their mental illness to you” – Mary Beth McAndrews, DREAD CENTRALOfficial Selection: SXSW 2022
Back when Will was 12, his mentally ill mother (Marlene Forte) tried to kill him and was subsequently put away. Eighteen years later, Will (Zach Villa) says he has cured himself of any past traumas and has a happy life with boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye). Then packages begin showing up from his mom, containing disturbing and paranoid tape-recorded messages, and Will begins seeing things and feeling sick. Doctors keep telling him he’s physically fine, just stressed out, but as his mind continues to deteriorate, he fears he’s following in his mother’s footsteps and becoming a danger to others. Fleeing from one potential haven to another, Will may not be able to escape the familial demon grabbing an ever stronger hold of his psyche.
Exorcising his own personal history with a bipolar mother, writer/director Addison Heimann (who previously scripted the Fantasia world-premiere shorts AVA IN THE END
and SWIPE UP, VIVIAN!
) brings both authenticity and artistry to HYPOCHONDRIAC
. A stark, emotionally unsparing drama first and foremost, it makes graphic use of horror imagery (including jolting hallucinations and a wolf-suited figure homaging DONNIE DARKO
) to illustrate and represent the fear, cruelty and damage that mental illness can wreak. Heimann found just the right lead actor in Villa, who brings wit and humour to his early scenes that get us to care about Will, before Villa fully plunges into the character’s downward spiral. The persuasively performed relationship between him and Graye’s Luke adds an additional level of empathy, and a tragic dimension as we see what Will stands to lose. – Michael Gingold