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BENNY & JOON
6 Dec 1993

It's a movie about a woman affected by mental illness, living with her brother. Sam, a Buster Keaton-like young man comes into their lives and is a catalyst for change.

I previewed the movie as it had been recommended by some of my movie-goers/'fellow-consumers'. My impression was that it was Hollywood's version. I thought it was quite unrealistic, in my experience it isn't really like that. In discussing it further I realised my perceptions were not those of people who have had more experience and struggles with mental illness and 'the system'.

I screened the film with the provision made for discussion afterward with an experienced facilitator/'consumer' on hand. It was our best attended movie night so far, nearly a full house, and the discussion that followed swirled around all the issues the movie raised - sexuality, family control, and 'institutionalisation' (reduced expectations for and by the person identified as being ill). As well, the discussion carried on to critique the institution we were using and the appropriateness of the atmosphere and style of care. It was most satisfying to provide this forum for users of the system to speak out.