Movie Review

Special Thanks to Carolyn Strand for letting us know about the following movie. It looks like someone has finally done their research and produced a movie that covers it as it actually is in many situations. I'll be going to see the movie this weekend, but from the input I've gotten it looks like Michael Rymer deserves a big congratulations - Brian.

For more information on the movie see the following web sites:

German Site:


Movie Review - Angel Baby

When Michael Rymer was writing ``Angel Baby,'' his award-winning Australian film, he didn't realize at first that his characters, a young couple who fall in love, were mentally ill.

He saw them instead as individuals -- as projections of his own romantic nature. In doing that, he says, he was lucky: ``The result was much more human and universal than if I had said, `I'm going to write about mentally ill people.' Because then I would have written characters that were collections of symptoms.''

``Angel Baby,'' which opened Friday at local theaters, swept the Australian Film Institute Awards for 1995 -- winning best picture, best direction and screenplay for Rymer, best cinematography and editing, and acting awards for the two stars -- Irish actor John Lynch (``Cal,'' ``In the Name of the Father''), who plays Harry, and Australian actress Jacqueline McKenzie (``Romper Stomper''), who plays his lover Kate.

When Harry, a schizophrenic, meets Kate, another schizophrenic who shares his mystical bent, both find a happiness they had never known. They move in together and decide to have a child. But in order to do so, they stop taking their medication and risk a return to the hallucinations and inner voices they used to suffer.


Rymer, 33, filmed ``Angel Baby'' in Melbourne, where he lived before coming to the United States in 1981 to attend the University of Southern California. After years of writing scripts that were either shelved or badly produced, he made his feature-film directorial debut with ``Angel Baby.''

In one sense, Rymer says, the relationship of the couple in ``Angel Baby'' mirrors that of him and his wife, Loretta Crawford, an Australian casting director whom he met in Los Angeles nine years ago. Australian filmmaker Michael Rymer set out to make a story of passionate love with `Angel Baby' Rymer and Crawford don't have mental incapacities, but their age difference presented another kind of stumbling block: She is 19 years older.

``According to conventional wisdom we were a long shot,'' Rymer says. ``Everyone said, `Oh, it will never last.' And so we had this obstacle and it caused us to cling to each other -- like Harry and Kate -- and bypass the petty bickering and misunderstandings that a lot of couples have. We were very much a team because it was us - against-everything.''

Rymer did extensive research on ``Angel Baby'': reading books on mental illness, speaking to parents' support groups and going to halfway houses that concentrated on finding work for mental patients and reintegrating them into mainstream society.

He befriended eight or nine schizophrenics and found a couple who had gone through three pregnancies and had each of the children taken away. The couple became role models for Lynch and McKenzie.

During his research, Rymer discovered that both sides of his family had histories of mental illness. While speaking to a social worker, he remembers, ``they heard my name and said, `Are you related to so-and-so Rymer?' '' And when he told one of his maternal uncles about his film, ``he said, `Well, you know about Cousin Vince.' Apparently, it was a dark family secret.''

Rymer hopes that ``Angel Baby,'' which he sees as a love story with a positive spin, will help lift the stigma from mental illness.

``It was this thing of shame for so many generations, up until very recently,'' he says. ``If you had a `crazy' relative, they were basically locked away. And no one talked about it because it was a sign that you'd fouled somehow -- that you were tarnished.''


Although Rymer's father is a neuroscientist and his mother is a psychotherapist, he denies that either one had an influence on ``Angel Baby'' or his interest in mental and psychological issues.

``I actually don't believe in psychotherapy and psychiatry that much,'' he says.

Rymer sees mental illness as a genetic disposition that manifests itself in ``a whole spectrum of behavior and experience'' and says he's encouraged by the current crop of medications. ``They're always experimenting with different `cocktails' for people to find the right balance,'' he says. ``It's a much more subtle science now than it was in the days of `Cuckoo's Nest' with electroshock and lobotomies.'' ``Angel Baby'' doesn't attempt to illustrate that world, Rymer says, but ``transcends its subject matter. It's not just about two marginal people suffering from this illness. It's about anybody who wants something very badly and is prepared to risk their sanity or their life to go out there.''

When one of Rymer's friends saw the film, he says, ``she was bawling her eyes out and later on she called me and said, `I'm sorry I was crying so much but it made me realize something about my life. This is the sort of relationship I've been looking for my whole life -- to find someone who loved me that much.' ''

Rymer understood. ``I cry a lot when I go to the movies,'' he says. ``But when I cry, it's not only when something is sad. I cry when people rise above themselves, when they're able to be courageous or generous and display a bit of the divine in themselves and get out of their own limited natures.

``It gives me the shivers thinking about it. I mean, that's why we're here: to try to expand and grow and be better, more fully ourselves. I base my life on that assumption: that our true nature is actually quite beautiful -- so I guess I am very much like Harry and Kate.''

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