Franklin James Cook

Parents’ Haunting Film about Son’s Suicide Is Also Healing

In Grief, Media on August 1, 2009 at 9:29 am

Evan gives his mom, Dana Perry, a kiss on the cheek, when he was a toddler at the beach.

UPDATED Aug. 4: Boy Interrupted, a documentary film by Dana Perry about the death by suicide of her son, Evan, premiered on HBO on Aug. 3 and will be rebroadcast throughout the month. SPNAC readers may refer to the list of show times from HBO for a viewing time in their locale.

There is a superb review — by Penelope Andrew, Women Film Critics Circle — of Boy Interrupted, which was published yesterday on Huffington Post. Andrew says the film “captures a bit of magic.”

When authenticity, generosity, traumatic memory, recorded history, and creativity collide, an effective documentary such as Boy Interrupted emerges. The musical score strikes notes that enhance the mood of this film that masterfully frames the devastated faces of Evan’s family and friends and makes sure we will not forget him and the health-care enigma and challenge he represents.

POSTED AUG. 3: Perry is a filmmaker, and her husband, Hart, is a cinematographer, so they used the medium they knew to tell the story of Evan’s life, and of their loss and their grief. Dana says, in a Wall Street Journal video interview before the film’s release at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in January,

“I don’t really want to tell this story, but I have to tell this story, and I’ll use the means that I know. I mean, who would film there own son’s funeral? … What normal, sane person would allow this to happen? Not only allow it to happen but make it happpen? And all I can say to that is, ‘Grief deranges one.'”

“The process of this grief is something like taking a teaspoon to an ocean of tears: You can spoon a little, but if you keep going at it, you might actually make a dent in it … I would never say, though, that that process is done or will be done. I don’t think it will.”

A review in Variety after the film debuted at Sundance calls it “beautifully put together”:

Mournful, pained and beautifully put together, “Boy Interrupted” is about a mentally ill 15-year-old who committed suicide, and the [film] could only have been made by his parents. [It] is, in fact, such an immersion in pain that had anyone other than Dana and Hart Perry cut this elegiac little gem, those filmmakers would be accused of grief exploitation. HBO has the film, and that’s probably best: Perhaps families will watch together and share a good cry.

Here is an excerpt from Sundance’s description of the film:

What defines this film as a remarkably unique and truth-telling achievement is the way it explores how filmmaking can create closure for its creators as well as its audience. Dana Perry has gathered home movies, photographs, and a variety of different documents to tell the story of her son, Evan: his bipolar illness, his life, and his death, and their impact on those who loved him the most. She interviews his siblings and friends, his doctors and his teachers, and in the process, she chronicles a harrowing and difficult journey. The camera provides insight and revelation, and yet “Boy Interrupted” is a film that is also full of despair. The film’s saving grace is that it functions, in the final analysis, as therapy for both its viewers and its subjects at a most fundamental level.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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  1. I saw this film today. I was deeply moved and felt such great sorrow for this family and a son who’s pain was so deep, he felt no other way out.
    I would like to thank them for sharing their story to all.

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