Film Review: Grey (dir. by Darshan Patel)

I want to take a few paragraphs to recommend a 20-minute film that I recently saw.  The name of the film is Grey and it can be viewed here.

Grey is a harrowingly honest but ultimately hopeful film about depression.  Opening with Raphael sleeping on his couch while his wife Lea lies alone in their bed, Grey is a near-documentary look at a couple whose lives are currently ruled by depression.  While Lea spends her days in bed (getting up only to close the curtains), Raphael struggles to carry on with his life.  He goes to work, he exercises in the park, and every day he comes home and tries (unsuccessfully) to get his wife to eat.  Though Raphael obviously loves his wife, it’s obvious that he’s nearly at the end of his rope. 

Speaking as someone who has to deal with depression her entire life, I can say that Grey gets it right and for that, I’m thankful.  Far too often, cinematic depression is just portrayed as just a plot device, a condition that has a very specific cause and, therefore, a very specific solution.  Though Grey gives us some hints as to what exactly has triggered Lea’s depression, it very wisely leaves the reason for her condition ambiguous and instead, it focuses on the day-to-day experience of both Lea and Raphael.  It acknowledges and illustrates the fact that depression affects more than just the person who is depressed while never playing down just how difficult it is to find oneself trapped in that condition.  Grey perfectly captures the strange stillness that comes with depression and the numbness that results from it. 

In the pivotal roles of Raphael and Lea, both James Parsons and Chiara Grioni give strong and sympathetic performances but the real star of the film is director Darshan Patel.  It’s a difficult thing, making a film about depression that is both honest and watchable but Patel has managed to largely succeed.  Wisely, he takes a hand-held, almost documentary-like approach here that allows us the viewer to make up our own minds regarding what we’re watching.  Instead of manipulating us to make us feel sorry for Raphael and/or Lea, he instead casts us in the role of detached observers who can do little more than simply watch life unfold.  As a director, Patel captures the feeling of isolation that comes with being depressed and, even in the scenes where Raphael interacts with others, you’re left with no doubt that he’s a man who feels that, without Lea, he is totally alone in the world.  I think the scene that most vindicates Patel’s technique is in the disturbing scene where Lea matter-of-factly considers slitting her wrists.  A lesser director would have played the scene with a lot of ominous music and flashy editing and the end result would have been a lot less effective than Patel’s straight forward approach.

In the end, Grey is the perfect title for this film.  Too often, films about depression either give into melodrama or they provide a bunch of easy answers.  Anyone who has ever had to deal with depression knows that the truth is never quite as simple.  Depression truly is a state of being grey, a state of being where the only feelings are ones of numbness, apathy, and hopelessness.  With an unflinching eye, Patel captures that feeling in this film and, it is to his credit, that Grey ends on a note of hope that feels totally earned. 

If you’ve ever suffered from depression or if you’ve had to deal with and/or take care of someone who suffers from depression, you’ll find Grey to be a powerful film and one that deserves to be seen.  You can watch the film for yourself here.