“You’ll never get this made,” was the blunt and firm response from a well-regarded producer after reading my screenplay synopsis. The central theme of my film - a woman desperately holding onto her identity as she battles clinical depression - is “not sexy, not funny, not hip.” And although depression affects the lives of 1 out of every 4 women in this country (National Institutes of Mental Health statistics), mainstream Hollywood has rarely taken on the subject without caricature, or with much substance and creativity.
In 1985, when my film is set, clinical depression was much less understood than it is today. From personal experience I saw doctors often misdiagnose the condition, dealing with each symptom as a condition unto itself. For example, my mother’s constant crying warranted the doctor to prescribe uppers. For her weight gain, a result of comfort eating, he prescribed diet pills. For her sleeplessness from anxiety, he prescribed downers. And on and on and on. To further complicate matters, there was little awareness of how the drugs interacted with each other, and my mother was blindly prescribed these chemical remedies simultaneously, leading to incredibly chaotic and manic behavior. With creativity and resilience we managed the chaos, but as an adolescent forced to keep the household afloat, I would have preferred some better, concrete solutions.
I know this subject matter is difficult to address in films that are meant to reach a wide audience. Yet, as the captivating television series The Big C has shown in dealing with the subject of skin
breast cancer, difficult subject matter can be dealt with successfully and I believe Hollywood would do well to take the taboo head on, and give the audience of families dealing with clinical depression some characters to align with that are a closer reflection of their own reality.
I’m happy to say that despite this initial producer’s ominous prediction, I raised the funding independently and shot my film in 2011. Coming Up Roses is opening this Friday, November 9that the AMC Loews Village 7 in Manhattan. The film has garnered attention based on the powerful female performances o Bernadette Peters and Rachel Brosnahan. These wonderful actors portray characters who, like many out there, are struggling with depression’s debilitating symptoms but manage to summon the courage, creativity and resilience to move forward.
Lisa Albright is the director and co-writer of Coming Up Roses. This is her first feature film. For more information on Coming Up Roses please visit: www.cominguproses-movie.com and www.amctheatres.com.