Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
CW: Depression, Suicide
Last night, at around 8 or 9 PM, I was sobbing on the floor of my closet, holding a belt that I was going to hang myself with.
It's a heavy sentence. It's a lot to say, a lot to drop on you, whoever is reading this, and it may seem a bit harsh. A bit brutal, or even alarming but if I wanted to do anything with this "review" it's that I want to be honest. And so honest I shall be.
Since then I've picked myself up a bit, or more accurately someone else picked me up, my significant other, thank whatever deity watches me, is a saint who can work miracles with me and pulls me back from even the longest gaze into the abyss. I won't divulge everything, this is Letterboxd, not therapy, but the fact that I'm thousands of miles from the person who loves me the most has been a struggle. My suicidal tendencies had subsided for years until my ex-girlfriend broke up with me at the end of last year, which lead to a horrible depression spiral that put me face to face with feelings I thought had gone. I pulled myself out, developed a new support system, and went on. However, recently, my best friend moved away, I recently found out I need to attend another semester of school that I didn't anticipate. My manic depressive and paranoid episodes are returning. It puts me in a weird state where I bounce back and forth almost every few minutes. Bipolar disorder is a fickle bitch, I'll tell you that. So, at this point, you wonder, why divulge all this? What's the point? Talk about the movie.
I have had a strange day.
While I did end the previous day better than I had began it, I was wracked with insecurity. I went and drove for a while out late just... driving. No destination. Just drove. Got back home and was awake for quite some time. Fell asleep. The day progressed, I went to class, I was able to snap out of whatever had it's grip on me earlier in the day, and I just carried on. Slow day, but in a good way.
On Thursdays I have two college courses. The second is my film studies class, which I love because we just watch movies and talk about them after, the professor is also just really cool. The movie that we were supposed to watch tonight was Embrace of the Serpent, which I wanted to watch so I was down with. However, there was a catch, the film had been changed. Instead, we watched a movie from one of my favorite working director's, a film I hadn't seen.
Now, if you've seen that movie, you know exactly why that might be incredibly... well... just not a good idea. I knew the content and concept of the film in a broad sense, a school shooting based on real events, but there was a sub-plot about a character I wasn't made privy to. A boy with survivor's guilt so awful he visits his family one last time before he kills himself in his car. The film's grounded and realistic approach made it feel uncomfortable even for people who don't suffer from my problems. I was shell-shocked. It was just so difficult to watch that happen and have it feel so real I could practically touch it. It didn't set me off or anything, but it made me think a whole lot about my situation and what the act of suicide does or can do. It was frightening because shoving that part of myself aside is sometimes surprisingly easy. Better to repress than to feel. But there it was, staring me in the face. It didn't quite destroy me... just a painful reminder. While I don't think I would've gone through with it last night, the idea, the inclination, just for the few minutes I had it, holding that fucking belt and weeping, it reminded me that that side is IN me. It IS me. I tried genuinely my sophomore year and got close, but thankfully it didn't pan out.
So, noticing that I was under duress a bit and not feeling myself, my friend Jacob reached out to me and offered to get food and get a double feature at our local cinema. Take my mind off of things, even though he had no clue about anything that happened to me. I kept that largely to myself for the most part. We nabbed a late dinner and worked out the movie times and decided on Venom and A Star is Born. Venom because of course, we were curious about the train wreck, and the latter because well, obviously we wanted to see it because of the buzz. Venom was first. It sucked. It was boring, tedious, and I regretted seeing it, which put me in a foul mood, but then I focused on the actually decent looking film to give me a solid time that could help me escape a bit after a shit movie, a scary experience, and a piece of art that embodied that experience.
And well, like before, if you know what happens in this film, you'll probably realize the absolute annihilation of whatever was left of my mental state before, by the time film ended, was quite potent.
I don't feel like this coincidence was indeed a coincidence. Perhaps it is a misplaced sense of importance that our lives have some sort of higher meaning, but it just feels too... purposeful. I turn to suicide and self-harm for the first time in almost a year, I am reminded of it with another realistic portrayal of this issue, and then I get here. This fucking magical little movie that made me cry like a fucking baby in the third act.
I can prattle on about how everything is great. How Cooper shines as a star and as a director, how Gaga acts like she's been doing film since birth, how the editing, montages, lighting, and pacing take you on this journey with these great characters on the event that makes their lives worth living. This movie is a "movie' in the sense that it's language and story are purely OF film. We've seen stories like this before, time and time again, so breaking the mold a bit and trading in traditional narrative choices for actually compelling storytelling just feels so... fresh. I've always wanted a good version of this story, and up until now, there just wasn't really one that I saw and liked. But this did. This delivered. And it leaves an impression.
As an artist, or someone who is trying to be one, the wish-fulfillment fantasy here is something I can't ignore. Seeing talent come from humble beginnings to being a sensation, it's cliched but damn does it work when done right. I want that. I hunger for it. So would a lot of people just like me. I'm probably gonna write things no one will care about or read, I may have to live with the satisfaction that I was just able to make something and have it be a more personal triumph, which is fine, but seeing someone else get this oppurtunity is what fuels my desire to try and do what I do in the first place, even if I suck at all of it, which is totally likely. I saw myself in both the leads, at different points, I remember 'yeah... I know that feeling...' and it felt gratifying. Wonderous even. When the chips are down, if a movie makes me feel like I'm less alone, or that someone somewhere understands me... it'll win me over.
It would be so easy for a movie like this to not work for me. To grab my cynical edge or even the side of me that demands grounded realism for most films of this ilk to work or connect with me... but it didn't. The ending broke my heart... but I think it healed it too. I owe a lot of people a lot of things. If you're reading this, or if you know me personally... I hope you know that. I owe you. I owe you so much. I owe this film too, in ways I can't verbalize, in ways that scarred me, in ways that healed me, in ways that I know what I'm seeing on screen is the magic of filmmaking. It's a basic pick for sure, this will be the Oscar frontrunner and everyone will love it and the cool kids will call it overrated. And I get it. But I don't care. Films are not black and white, they aren't math, they aren't science, at the end of the day, it is all about how something affects you and engages you. I loved the experience, this film, this life... everything.
And I love you.
"A star is born when atoms of light elements are squeezed under enough pressure for their nuclei to undergo fusion. All stars are the result of a balance of forces: the force of gravity compresses atoms in interstellar gas until the fusion reactions begin,"
- The Scientific American, 'How Is a Star Born?'