‘Why Can’t You Be Normal!?!’
Any regular readers of this blog will know how much I love a good indie movie. There’s also a good chance, then, that if you know that you also know about how I struggle with depression and anxiety. Both of these elements combine to make up ‘The More You Ignore Me’; a delightful, bittersweet and endearing oddball of a film.
Written by comedian Jo Brand – which she adapted from her 2009 novel – the film is set in the 1980s, after a preface of sorts set in the 1970s. Gina (Sheridan Smith) is having another psychotic episode. She’s obsessed with the weatherman and is determined to pursue him as he’ll fix her – the fact he doesn’t even know her is something that Gina doesn’t realise or care about. Alice, her young daughter, and Keith, her long-suffering husband (played by Mark Addy) are also forgotten. The end result is a stint at a hospital psychiatric ward. 9 years later and a teenage Alice (Ella Hunt) must negotiate the already tumultuous nature of teenagerdom with having a mother who isn’t exactly ‘normal’…
Writing about mental health is a difficult task, a minefield avoiding triggers and careful consideration of just about everything. For the most part ‘The More You Ignore Me’ works well, particularly in its depiction of how both husband and daughter negotiate living with Gina. Hunt is particularly good as Alice – we find ourselves desperately routing for her when things seem to keep going against her. There’s also a very subtle and carefully sketched implicit underlying element which seems to explore the impact of nature and nurture – about whether some of Alice’s obsessive tendencies may stem from genetics. Addy is superb providing an understated performance as a loving husband who has put his life truly on hold to look after his beloved wife.
There are many other recognisable faces adding to proceedings. Sally Phillips is wonderful as the great family friend but not-so-great family doctor. Sheila Hancock and Ricky Tomlinson make brief appearances as Alice’s maternal grandparents, with Tom Davis and Tony way brief stealing each scene they’re in as Alice’s uncles. In slight contrast Sheridan Smith’s lead performance is good but not as subtlety drawn or played out as the rest of the film. She’s distracting, over the top and too reliant on ugly stereotypes. It feels insincere, slightly phony and overly dramatic – a pantomime performance in a film that is far tender and softer. The fact she’s clearly wearing padding and a dodgy wig really doesn’t help proceedings.
Aside from that ‘The More You Ignore Me’ is a sweet watch, a coming of age story about a girl whose life is too hectic to come of age. It’s about obsessions, passions, love, family and The Smiths. This movie? It’s really charming, man.
‘The More You Ignore Me‘ is in UK cinemas now.