Making the Grades
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is depressed. Even though he has two loving parents who have arranged for counseling and prescription remedies in the past, the teen experiences tremendous pressure to please his father (Jim Graffigan) who wants him to attend a prestigious business college after high school. He also feels alone because, from his perspective, he is surrounded by trouble free kids who have life figured out.
Taken individually, his "problems" may not appear very major. Yet for Craig, life is dismal. So dismal that he has recurring thoughts and dreams about killing himself. Not sure what to do, the youth presents himself at the local emergency room and declares himself suicidal.
His expectations are simple: A few hours of care and someone to talk to should leave him in a fit state to be back at school the next day. Instead the attending physician admits him to the psychiatric ward, which requires a minimum stay of five days. Assigned to a two-bed room with a reclusive older man from Egypt (the teen psych ward is closed due to renovations), Craig realizes his cry for help is taking a very unexpected turn.
During the next few days he meets a wide selection of patients. The most notable is a distraught middle-aged man named Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), whose own story will provide Craig with plenty to think about. And then there is Noelle (Emma Roberts), another teen patient with scars on her wrists from her cutting behavior.
Definitely one of the more unusual movies to release this year, this film fills a very sensitive and unexpected niche. The young protagonist’s mental issues aren’t nearly as severe as those of the others around him, yet he represents the many adolescents who face seemingly insurmountable stresses that range anywhere from academic expectations to perceived world destruction. Thankfully, the surprisingly insightful script offers some answers for Craig’s desperation: Recognize what’s good in your life, discover what talents you have to offer and then use those talents to serve others.
While these messages are definitely positive, there are a few depictions that warrant caution. When Craig finds a girlfriend, the script inadvertently suggests that a hospital setting may offer relationship rewards that aren’t likely to be found in reality. There are numerous benefits for his suicidal confession that paints a rather rosy perspective of life in a psychiatric ward. As well, it may imply simple solutions to very serious issues, despite the claim near the end of the movie that no one can expect to be cured of mental illness in five days.
Parents should take note of some content issues too. A brief scene of teen sexuality is shown (without nudity) and infrequent profanities include a sexual expletive, crude terms for sex and anatomical slang. Finally, although it is depicted within the realm of his imagination, we see Craig jump from a bridge.
Still, for youths who may be fighting consistent bouts of despair, this film should leave them with some worthwhile food for thought. Managing to mix its message with humor, this script offers many sincere chuckles as we begin to learn about each of these characters and the motivation behind their kind of a funny story.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
We highly recommend this film be viewed with or previewed by an adult caregiver prior to teens seeing it, especially if they are prone to depression. Parents and caregivers should be willing and able to discuss the themes of suicide and depression in this film.
A doctor recommends that Craig consider the things he is able to change versus those he is not. How easy is it to identify which of these two categories our problems may fall into?
Temporary depression is a normal human emotion. However if you are consistently or continuously feeling depressed, you should seek advice and perhaps active treatment. This is one site of many that offers some basic tips for combating depression: http://www.psychologyinfo.com/depression/help.html