Damon Smith opens Mental As Everything by introducing himself to the viewer, recounting his tendency to carry a banana with him when he was feeling anxious. This display of transparency and vulnerability right from the beginning sets the tone for the rest of the documentary, allowing it to delve into the darker, heavier aspects of mental health without feeling fake or insincere.
Mental As Everything follows two Australian musicians, Damon Smith and Adam Coad, as they share their experiences with mental illness. Shifting between original music, asides, and animations, the documentary peels back the stigma of discussing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The segment that focuses on OCD in particular was illuminating, where Smith details the ‘ritualistic behaviours’ he participated in as a result of his OCD, like needing to remove his socks and shoes and putting them on again a certain number of times until it felt right.
It was refreshing to watch the subject of mental illness be covered with humour and heart. Well-timed serious notes in the documentary – like Smith and Coad addressing the audience about dissolving stigma and the power that one’s words and actions have – further keep it from being distasteful.
Though the comedy wasn’t my style, it was humorous enough to not overstay its welcome, helping to keep the documentary digestible without detracting from the importance of its message. The original music, which ranged from upbeat whimsical songs to slow, blue ballads, was entertaining and poignant. The distinct art style chosen for the animations adds to the humorous tone of the documentary, which was tactfully used to lighten the mood after a slow song or heavier intertitles.
Documentaries such as Mental as Everything help break down the barriers that keep us from having open conversations about mental illness, leaving the viewer hopeful that one day, it’ll be just as normal to talk about a bad mental health day as it is to talk about a broken arm.
I would definitely recommend giving it a watch if you wanted a different perspective on the subject of mental illness.
Rating: ⅘ stars
Mental as Everything is one of the documentaries being featured in the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, running the entire month of October. You can watch the documentary on the MDFF’s website: https://mdff.org.au/films/mental-as-everything