Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dan And Margot (2015) Film Review
Dan And Margot
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Over the last few years the police, politicians and wider society have come to take stalking more and more seriously. Even when no physical harm is done, living with that constant sense of fear, that awareness that at any time there might be somebody watching, can do long lasting psychological damage. Imagine how much more disorientating it must be when one subsequently discovers that the person doing the stalking doesn't really exist.
Margot is 27. She lived in fear of Dan for three years. He used to find her even in unlikely places where she thought she'd be safe. She would hear him talking about her, saying horrible, demeaning things. Then she found out she had schizophrenia. In the time since, she has been battling to take back her life.
Margot defies every stereotype about the mentally ill. She's strong-willed, intelligent, full of joie de vivre and, despite grief at missing out on what might have been some of the best years of her life, she's determined to live every minute of the rest to the full. Perhaps this is why she has a strong relationship with her family and a group of loyal friends, or perhaps it's the other way round. She's so together, in fact, that it took those close to her some time to realise that she was falling apart. They still find her illness hard - when, for instance, she calls filmmaker Jake Chirico about a problem instead of one of them. "Why do you think she relates to me?" he asks, sitting on the bed in his Smoke meth & hail Satan t-shirt. But perhaps there are some things that it's easier to talk about with a stranger. Margot is always a proactive force in the film, assertively telling her story, not simply responding to questions.
Will she suffer another attack? Everybody knows it's a risk. But she's pragmatic about her medication and determined to stay in control despite meeting, as one always does, people who proselytise about how everything got better for them when they let nature take its course. This is, for the most part, a film about recovery and about how it's possible to live a positive, adventurous life despite potentially severe mental health problems. Margot recognises her advantages and knows it must be much harder for others, but she's still a really valuable role model given how much cinema, both documentary and fiction, portrays mentally ill people as victims or monsters.
Though it feels somewhat haphazard, Chirico and Chloe Sosa-Sims' film is well put together and maintains its energy and charm most of the way through. It could stand to lose ten or 15 minutes in the middle to tighten it up, but there's no point at which it really drags. Extensive use of close-ups puts us right in the middle of things and shooting in small rooms sustains that sense of intimacy. The clutter of Margot's life reminds us of all the ways in which she's typical for her age. Schizophrenia may be the focus of the film, but it's only part of her story.
Screening at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival: Q&A with director Chloe Sosa Sims, Sat 15 Oct, CCA Glasgow.Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2016