The premise Luke Eve’s I Met a Girl, a rather poignant road trip/love story, runs the risk of romanticizing mental illness, but manages to instead provide a positive opening for neurodiverse communities.
Perpetual up-and-comer Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Gods of Egypt) stars as Devon, a struggling musician diagnosed with schizophrenia. Institutionalized following a violent incident at his brother’s wedding and placed under his brother’s care, Devon’s life seems to be on the mend. But after numerous setbacks, his hallucinations begin to return and he attempts to commit suicide. Rescued by a kind woman named Lucy (Lily Sullivan), Devon immediately falls in love and begins to follow her across Australia, from Perth to Sydney. Though, at every turn, it appears more and more likely that Lucy is just another hallucination.
Though the film’s balance of lightheartedness and serious discussion of the ramifications of mental illness provide much of the film’s backbone, the performances come across as unnecessarily twee. Thwaites, a prolific young actor whose career has never seemed to soar despite numerous attempts, unconvincingly attempts to portray a man with schizophrenia, while Sullivan’s manic pixie dream girl Lucy comes across as stale and familiar. Joel Jackson’s Nick (Devon’s brother) manages to shine through the material, however, ably committing to the role of the stressed-out caretaker brother.
While the film occasionally suffers from a diluted representation of schizophrenia, it nonetheless compellingly seeks to create positive possibilities for neurodiverse communities, particularly with the possibility of happiness. While such representations are important and necessary, more serious cinematic intervention into the experience of schizophrenia is required, and ought not to be reduced to tropic heroes and villains (much of Devon’s hallucinations manifest in this way), nor as an explicit narrative device.
While, at times, I Met a Girl suffers from a generic impulse towards the romantic comedy, the film is a fair start at generating serious discussions about love and neurodiversity.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile