“Can you love someone who hurts you?” is the underlying question of the film Caroline and Jackie, starring Marguerite Moreau as Caroline and Bitsie Tulloch as Jackie. The film about sisterhood delves way beyond the usual dysfunctional family drama and goes straight for the chaos that mental illness brings to a family, a taboo subject not often discussed outside of families dealing with the issue.
Despite mental illness being more prevalent in the media than ever before, it’s still one of those topics that’s rarely touched in film. Or if it is touched, it’s the entire focus of the movie. It’s presented in a big way and shown to overtake the characters’ lives. However in real life it rarely works like that. While on one hand it’s a big part of a family’s existence, it’s also a hidden part. Words like “different”, “weird”, “tempermental” and even “quirky” are used to disguise diagnosable mental health problems to people outside of the family. It’s not uncommon to hear, “something’s off” used to describe someone suffering from a serious problem.
So just like in real life, Caroline and Jackie never comes right out and discusses the mental illness that is so clearly plaguing Caroline by the end of the film. Instead we just watch how it effects Jackie’s friends as well as Jackie — and we watch it unfold during an intervention/birthday pary planned for Jackie by Caroline.
If this sounds kind of twisted, it’s because it is kind of twisted. While Jackie’s close friends, boyfriend and sister spend the evening trying to convince her to get help for her supposed anorexia, they start to realize that Caroline’s really the one who needs help. But how do you help someone who doesn’t have a label?
If you’re anorexic, you can go to a facility. But if you’re just crazy, if your actions just make everyone uncomfortable, where do you go? The answer’s unclear in the movie as well as in real life.
What happens to a woman like Caroline who appears so normal at first and then reveals herself to be mentally ill? Rather than attempting to answer the question, the film just shows how this common struggle affects the people it impacts most. This simple approach to this complex problem is why I appreciated this movie so much.
This snapshot of an evening with a mentally ill woman offers much more than a drama that attempts to resolve the complicated issue in 120 minutes.