Film Review: Brain On Fire

Directed and written by Gerard Barrett, Brain On Fire is a 2016 American-Canadian-Irish biographical drama, depicting the true story of Susannah Calahan. Based on Calahan’s memoir, Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness, the film starts Chole Graze Mortez as Susannah. This movie was recently added to Netflix, and after finding the movie to be so inspiring, I wanted to address it in a blog post in hopes of encouraging others to give it a watch.

A 21-year-old journalist at the New York Post, living in her own apartment and dating a musician, it seems as though Susannah has the life many can only dream of experiencing. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Susannah’s life is subjected to drastic change, and Susannah herself begins to disintegrate both mentally and physically.

With zero prior medical conditions or concerns, Susannah’s sudden change in health is extremely concerned to her divorced parents and her boyfriend. Her family slowly watch her change into a stranger, and after undergoing numerous tests, Susannah is diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, some examples being Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Psychosis. Convinced her illness is more complex than what Susannah exhibits on a surface-level, her parents pressure doctors to continue to investigate her case until it is finally determined that Susannah is suffering from an auto-immune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (Wikipedia). In time, Susannah makes a full recovery, but her story is one incredibly deserving of acknowledgement as her memoir has helped thousands of people to be properly diagnosed with auto-immune disorders, rather than mental illness.

I won’t go so far as to say that the acting in the film was superb, but I strongly believe this movie is worth the watch because of what this young woman goes through, how she pulls through, and how she uses her situation to help others.

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