Southampton International Film Festival 2013 review: Illness ★★★★★ + Interview with actor Cheryl Allison

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This was a short film I found intensely uncomfortable to watch, but for all the right reasons. It tells the story of a family with two children, the older of which has an unspecified mental health condition. We follow the mother as she struggles to align the fact that she loves both of her sons, but fears for her younger son’s safety.

This film highlights the lack of understanding of mental health conditions that still exists within our society, particularly of those that have no physical manifestations. The struggle with this kind of topic is always making it appear real. Without firsthand experience, portraying mental illness or portraying those it affects can be incredibly challenging, but Illness hits the nail on the head.

I had the pleasure of speaking to actor Cheryl Allison, the recipient of the Best Actress award for her role as the mother.

What made you want to get involved with Illness?

Cheryl: The subject matter number one. I think it’s something that absolutely needs to have awareness raised. People need to be educated and not fearful of mental illness. It still has a stigma around it, people are scared of it, and so they don’t talk about it. Therefore there’s a lack of resources and help in medical industries for families that have people suffering from mental health problems.

What was the most challenging thing about the role?

Cheryl: I think it was the depth that the mother had to go to dealing with a child with mental illness. I wanted to make it real. I didn’t want to be over the top or overly dramatic, so I felt a pressure to represent the many, many women out there who are dealing with a child with mental illness. I felt it was much greater than myself or just an acting role.

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Whilst I may be mildly biased in that the subject is something very close to my heart, I definitely think this film was under-recognised. The Best Actress award was well deserved; however this is a film that has far more going for it than just its fabulous performances. A small film with a big message, Illness is definitely one to watch.

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    You know i have two kids with mental illness, and I suffer of seasonal depression. I work with families that have mental illness and some of their children, as a two job single mom. What i can not wrap my mind on is why we have Presidents and CEOS that work in these agencies of Mental Health and they do not CAP at a certain Salary base pay and Bonuses, are rediculas of what they receivefor pay. Some make more than our Governor in Massaschusetts. This saddens me and they give nothing to the front line workers, that are in the battle fields with families and their love ones going through the Hell that breaks out. We need to expose this outrageous doing and then we wonder where our money goes too. We have to fight hard to get respect and reasonable pay from them. Social work is very low in pay, what is wrong with this.

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