A new documentary, “Running from Crazy,” tries to answer that question. The film follows actress Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of author Ernest Hemingway, as she explores her family’s tragic history and uncovers dark secrets.
Hemingway. The name is synonymous with heroic manliness. “Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Old Man and the Sea,” “Sun Also Rises,” the man wrote about seizing life and grand adventures. He lived life fast; he lived life hard. And that life ended, by his own hand, in 1961.
This was not the first suicide in the family, and it would not be the last.
In the documentary Mariel discovers that depression and mental instability has long been a curse plaguing her family. This includes both of her older sisters, including Margaux her killed herself in 1996 on the 35th anniversary of her grandfather’s death.
I found the film very interesting. I of course knew the name and a few facts but didn’t know much about the famous family. As Mariel learns more about her family so do we as the audience. Depression, much like it is today, was a taboo subject and never talked about while Mariel was growing up. She was told her oldest sister, Muffet, was at boarding school when she was actually at hospitals and institutions.
It’s an important topic to bring to light, and attaching a name and a face to it helps bring it to the masses. Mariel, and her youngest daughter Langley, are incredibly honest about their own struggles which I found to be very moving.
My problem with the film is, while depression is the idea, the director, Barbara Kopple, tells the story in a very convoluted and unfocused way.
There’s lots of archival footage from an unfinished documentary Margaux tried to make in the 1980’s. Which was fascinating, but confused the storyline. Was this Mariel’s story? Margaux’s? Ernest’s? Was it about mental illness? Or the complicated Hemingway family dynamics?
It tries to be all these things and is ultimately unsuccessful in telling a cohesive story.
The overall message of “Running from Crazy” is positive and there are lots of interesting ideas in it. But there are too many ideas. It’s making the film festival rounds right now, and I expect it to find a distributor and a limited release later this year.
- Mariel Hemingway Focuses on Family’s History of Mental Illness in New Film (followmefilms.wordpress.com)
- Sundance 2013: Running from Crazy – first look review (guardian.co.uk)
- SVFF: Sun Valley Audience Cheers Hometown ‘Girl’ Mariel Hemingway’s Tragic, Uplifting Life Story (boiseweekly.com)