$4 Tuesday: Blue Ruin

I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not, you’re weak.

Last night I rallied my friends and we saw Blue Ruin, directed by Jeremy Saulnier. This film has won a bunch of awards and while I enjoyed the film making overall, the movie really dragged. I appreciate when a film builds up the tension and then is able to release it in a huge climax however I never felt like that tension was properly released with this one.

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We meet Dwight (played by a transformative Macon Blair) in the middle of a complex story. The beginning of the film held that same slow pace but with acute attention to detail. Detail was paid to the routine and style with which the main character lived. a homeless man living in a busted up car in a beach town, the filmmaking leaves the impression that Dwight is patiently waiting for something, which allows him to organize his day-to-day life and cope with the present reality. That reality (and the wait) comes crashing down when a double murderer is released from prison and Dwight goes to meet him. Dwight is not a trained killer by any means and struggles to keep a clear head as he deals with the stress of seeking revenge, executing that revenge, messily executing the individual who was newly released from prison, and dealing with the repercussions. 

The film traverses the line between psychological thriller and gory violence and as we dive further into the psychology of the main character, we wonder ourselves how far we would go for vindication. But Dwight is poorly prepared, and is barely able to keep ahead of his antagonists, who are trained in weapons and killing. a strategically violent family, the antagonists of Blue Ruin are well prepared for confrontation, as the final scene indicates (whoops, spoiler!). Dwight is not without skill, though. He thinks ahead, he is quick and nimble, escaping from situations in the nick of time and problem-solving on the spot in times of tension. This allows him to confront the armed and criminal family who has so thoroughly damaged his life. 

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beautifully filmed thriller, Blue Ruin maintains it’s focus on the present events as they unfold. although it offers an explanation for the violence and revenge, the film doesn’t linger on the details. We’re left to imagine the grotesque murder of two lovers (the parents of Dwight) after a love affair goes array that has haunted the two families for decades. However, without offering more details, the film becomes difficult to follow since it fails to provide more concrete and timely explanations of who knows who, who is related to who, and who the families are. Part of this is by design, obviously, in order to provide a psychologically twisting narrative that keeps you engaged. However, the script, with all it’s “our parents, your parents, our aunt, your brother, this grandson, the guy in prison, this woman is your sister but the movie script makes you think they’re married” just ends up getting convoluted to the point that it becomes tedious to follow the plot line.

If the film passes the Bechdel Test, it barely passes. There are multiple female characters but they exchange only a few words between them, which may or may not be words that are about the men in the movie. 

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Despite the dragging narrative at times and the complicated interpersonal relationships, the film is fascinating to watch and cinematically beautiful. I’ll be looking forward to watching this film again at home and further evaluating it in the future. The title, Blue Ruin, apparently alludes to a catastrophe but may also reference the bullet-holed up blue car that Dwight drives everywhere.

I recommend seeing it and making yourself watch the gory parts. Don’t shut your eyes or you’ll miss some great moments and dark humor!

- Hans 

 

My Mental Health Today

Dear Reader, you have been mislead. In my last post I wrote from a redemption stand point about my struggle with depression and anxiety. On the one hand, I am so remarkably different from who I was a year ago that it continually blows my mind. Super anti-social, anxiety-ridden, and weird avoidance habits defined me. Yesterday’s post makes it sounds like I’m tots in the clear, that I’m healed and good all the time. 

The truth is now I’m just better at recognizing my anxiety and situations that spark it. Likewise, I also have coping mechanisms for my anxiety, like deep breathing or furiously writing. With improved coping mechanisms, I’m more able to put myself out there in life and accept experiences and opportunities as they come. However the anxiety hasn’t gone away, it lingers and I spend a huge amount of energy trying to process and cope with it. 

Recognizing the difference between healthy stress (this response my body and brain is having to stress is preparing me to excel at a challenge) versus irrational anxiety and obsessive thoughts. It’s an ongoing battle even after achieving a perspective change.

Just wanted to clear that up. Now I’m going for a run because working out is one of the key ways I am able to keep functioning. 

-Hans 

My Mental Health Journey

I have previously blogged about my struggle with depression and generalized anxiety disorder (this last one is a newer diagnosis) but it’s time to bring the topic up again.

I spent all of 2013 in a deep depression and ever-increasing anxiety, despite constant therapy and high doses of antidepressants. as I worsened towards the end of Spring semester I was so unable to function that I failed the 2 last classes I needed to graduate that semester. I even found myself counting all the pills in my apartment, lining them up, and wondering if I had enough to cause death, or just an embarrassing hospital trip should I not have enough. Not many people know how low I had gotten that year or how precarious my mental state was. The summer that followed was a mostly dark time spent very isolated in my studio apartment. I fervently tried to write an honors thesis while doing little things to improve my life. I hula hooped some, I started $4 Tuesday movie reviews, I got a pet bird, I worked for the circus. I tried really hard but I was operating at so high an anxiety level so constantly that I was still losing my ability to function. 

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Me in Nicaragua- part of my depression came from severe discombobulation after traveling abroad for 6 months in 2012

Things that perk my anxiety included social situations if I didn’t know someone there, (small talk left me physically exhausted), being unable to get out of the social situation for some reason, worrying about getting tired during the interaction, feeling like I’d rather stay in my house and be alone. I could never relax. I had obsessive negative thoughts from which I could not detach. Slacklining or hooping in public gave me anxiety because I feared people coming up to talk to me about what I was doing, or worried that they would want to use my stuff. 

My anxiety was inescapable and I was trapped by it constantly. anxiety fueled me to stay isolated and made me feel like I wasn’t good enough in anything I did, that I wasn’t worthy, that I was a failure.

 Of course, I was lonely, but I was not mentally able to reach out to others, to create friendships. Can you imagine that? Not possessing the ability to have a friendly conversation because people exhaust you and you’re consumed by anxious thoughts?

I began to get better when I started working at Donkey Coffee in athens last July. I was thrown into a group of coworkers who have quickly become some of my best friends in athens. I was forced to interact with people because of my job. This exposure played a key part in lifting much of my anxiety (more on this in a future post). 

In the fall I enrolled in classes, deciding to add a business certificate to my collection of degrees. But I did not see that I was not in a mentally stable enough place. In October I severely burned my arm at work and due to my mental and physically health I medically withdrew from university.

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Image On painkillers after getting treated in the ER, the burned arm in question.

This was the best decision, as I spent a few months working, hooping, relaxing, and enjoying life. as 2013 ended and I decided to attack 2014 with no holds bared. I was tired of waiting to live the life I wanted and swore that I would no longer follow these old habits, I would say YES to situations, opportunities, and people. Therapy has also been key to this process, although I no longer am on anti-depressants.

I am so proud of myself and the progress I have made. Every day I feel more confident that I am heading in a positive new direction. I believe I am a strong individual who is wiser because of my battle with mental heath. Life no longer scares me and neither do people. I welcome new friendships and seek to uplift others while seeking out others who will uplift me. I have an insatiable desire to live each moment of every day as hard as possible. Now I’m overwhelmed by gratitude because I have so much life to live.

It’s a beautiful thing when you get to a point that you actually feel thankful for the difficulties you’ve faced. I am thankful for how hard 2013 (and years previously) have been because if they weren’t challenging, I wouldn’t now have the desire to push myself to excel, to plow through my comfort zone on the daily, and to love the people around me as much as I do. 

I’m just so thankful that I get to live this life, that I get to fill it with joy and goodness and send that positive energy back into the world. I’m finding peace in the whirlwind that is my life and I love every second of it.

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Photo by Rebecca Ciprus