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article imageReview: 'Out of Mind, Out of Sight' removes the stigma of mental illness Special

By Michael Thomas     May 4, 2014 in Entertainment
Could you forgive your brother if he killed your mother? What if he did so because he was schizophrenic? John Kastner's 'Out of Mind, Out of Sight' is a moving and empathetic look into a Brockville, Ont. mental institution.
Kastner gives viewers a thorough look into two specific floors of the Brockville Mental Health Centre — the floors the deal with forensic psychiatry. The patients on these floors have all been found not criminally responsible for a variety of crimes, from assault to murder. Over the course of his time there, Kastner filmed 46 of the 59 patients, as well as 75 staff members.
Specifically, he follows two men and two women — Caroline, Sal and Michael all suffer from schizophrenia, while Justine is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
The beginning of the film, showing an incident between Justine and a male co-patient, seems to foreshadow a grim 88 minutes, and indeed, some of the scenes are devastatingly emotional and deal with dark subject matter. But more than anything, Kastner does an excellent job of humanizing the men and women he interviews.
Beyond their incidents that put them in the hospital — Michael killed his mother, Sal beat his mother so severely that she suffers irreversible nerve damage — each has had their own fair share of pain. Justine and Caroline both had kids but lost them, and Sal feels isolated despite his attempts to make friends with the other co-patients.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight covers nearly every topic one could think of about mental hospitals — what kind of medication do they have, and how often? Do romantic relationships happen on the premises? How are these people treated? Do they have the potential to become violent?
All of these questions are answered, and at least one of them is answered by Michael, who is lucid and thoughtful and emerges as the central character of the film. Most importantly, Kastner interviews Michael's family, who are understandably devastated by the loss of their loved one, but still support Michael unconditionally.
Despite the grim subject matter, there is some warmth and humour to be found, particularly in Caroline, whose personality is larger than life. In one scene, she shows Kastner a chart that chronicles each day and whether she received a sticker, which means she behaved well. "I'm a bad girl," she says with a smile. When Kastner asks how she's doing this month, she answers "I'm off to a rocky start."
The film also addresses bigger issues, like who is to blame for violence associated with mental illness. Michael's case is explained eloquently by one of his brothers, and it's an emotionally striking moment, since his brother suffered the loss of his mother just as Michael continues to.
Those looking for an answer as to what can be done to "cure" mental illness will not find it in this film, but audiences should walk away with the knowledge that those afflicted are not beyond hope.
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