“As a filmmaker it’s a dream to have someone see life through your eyes,” writer/director Paul Dalio began, welcoming the audience to the world premiere of his dramatic feature Mania Days, “but to have someone see life through your eyes, as a crazy person, is a whole other dream.”
Boldly exploring the wild, eccentric, and sometimes nightmarish mood spikes brought about by manic depression, Dalio weaves a story of Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby): two manics who fall violently in love when they meet in a psychiatric hospital. But their love, however beautiful, enables them to descend further into a dangerous state of extended mania.
The characters achieve a high level of complexity and believability- aided by Dalio’s first-hand experience with the illness –their overactive minds teetering constantly between brilliance and insanity. Both Carla and Marco are poets in their own arenas, expressing words furiously through novels and poems and freestyle rap. In terms of personality, they both complement and collide with each other, reacting to each other like- as the movie suggests -the push and pull of the sun and moon.
Both Holmes (Batman Begins) and Kirby (Take This Waltz) embrace the complicated aspects of their roles, navigating an unpredictable rollercoaster of emotions with superb skill. With the help of a solidly intriguing and original script, the actors convey the beauty as well as the tragic flaws of a manic depressive’s mental clockwork, meanwhile straining to maintain a connection to reality.
During the Q&A, one gentleman raised his hand to thank Dalio and the filmmakers for the final product. The man had suffered from manic depression for years, undergoing several of the same mood swings the characters undergo…including the constant and bitter struggle with medication. He quoted:
I think you handled this tender and delicate subject so well, and I wanted to thank you for raising awareness of this disease.
The tension between accepting the ecstatic mania of their disease versus keeping their feet on planet earth proves a restless, joyful, intense journey for Carla and Marco, colored by episodes of painful realizations. The movie is as wild and tumultuous as the mind of a manic depressive, and for me, proved an experience thoroughly engaging and enlightening.