Michelle Melles describes her new film Drunk On Too Much Life as a love letter to her daughter. In watching this film this exact type of intimacy is clear. The documentary closely follows the impressive journey of Corrina (Melle’s daughter) and her family as they find ways to understand Corrina’s experiences. It’s a journey filled with hope and hardship. Drunk on Too Much Life offers a new perspective on how society views mental illness.
The film begins with Corrina speaking about her childhood, reflecting on her experiences of bullying throughout her adolescence, and explaining how it felt when she went into her first psychosis. Poignant images of brain scans and animals flicker across the screen eliciting an insight into what Corrina’s internal experiences are like. Continuously throughout the film, Corrina reads her poetry as rapid and striking flashes of images break over the screen revealing a very personal side of her. The combination of images, music and Corrina’s words adds profundity and a deeply emotional aspect to the film.
Corrina details all the medications she must take with personal knowledge of each one’s use. She tells her father how she wishes to be on the least amount possible. As she explains the needs of each pill and her relationship with them, the weight of the story deepens. Corrina’s descriptions convey a sense that there is more to the pills, more to her story and more to the mental health system. The film communicates that the medical side to mental health recovery is limited and perhaps restrictive.
As the film progresses Corrina’s poetry continues to be read and becomes continuously darker. Her poetic words paint a stark and heart-wrenching picture of her thoughts. Corrina becomes increasingly more vulnerable and intimate as she navigates her wavering recovery.
She reaches breakthroughs in artistic forms as she sings with her father while he plays guitar, and makes poetry.
The film displays how recovery is not a linear path as Corrina struggles to find stability. She is admitted to the hospital numerous times and throughout these visits has both moments of joy and connectivity but also of extreme despondence.
The film and Corrina’s journey seizes the heart and the eye, as the artistic visuals add much life to the film. The flashing colors and confusing visuals convey a sense of what Corrina and other people living with extra mental challenges may feel or see. Corrina’s poetic words add a crucial intensity to the film and demand a new way of perceiving people living with what the medical world declares an “illness”.
Corrina always hugged a tree when she left the hospital and Melles captures stunning shots of thick tree roots along Vancouver Island and swaying branches in the sky. The feelings of strength and rejuvenation that were important for the family are clear.
As the medical world and system continuously seem to only provide a certain level of understanding and help, Melles family searches elsewhere. Dr. Cabor Maté suggests finding meaning within her psychosis and from this point on Corrina finds a new approach towards battling her thoughts. The terms superpower and human experience become more relevant. The family begins to lean away from the term “mental illness”, and finds something to better represent their daughter’s experiences that are beautiful and powerful.
The film reveals the extent to which the medical world is truly valuable and we learn to embrace all parts of ourselves as Corrina has so bravely shown us possible. Melles’ film is an intimate and emotional journey of recovery that is consistently compelling and deeply thought-provoking.