Mental As Everything was seen as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
The subject of mental health has never been easy to talk about, no matter how serious it might end up being to those who suffer from it. This is kind of strange when you realise how many people have some form of mental health issue, I’m going to wager that everyone reading this either has some form of mental health issue or knows someone who does. Hell, the person writing this knows several people with serious mental health issues. The reason it’s not talked about as much as it probably should be is because of social stigma… something that the brilliant minds behind Mental As Everything are trying to help with.
Mental As Everything is, in essence, a film adaptation of the cabaret show of the same name. The show is written and performed by the uber-talented Damon Smith and Adam Coad who have taken their own mental health diagnoses (OCD, anxiety, etc.) and turned it into an educational comedy musical extravaganza that seeks to not only give neuro-typical people an understanding of just what these mental health issues can feel like but also to provide those who share in their diagnosis some form of musical catharsis.
For only an hour long, Mental As Everything is jam packed with so much incredible content that it’s stunning how it all just works. From the opening shot where our narrator, Damon Smith, tries to find a non-cliche way of visualising mental health (and pulls it off) to the gloriously sweet ending that will just warm the cockles of your heart. Even before we talk about the music, this film is engaging and informative while also being hilarious at several moments… and then we have to talk about the music, the absolutely amazing music.
Mental As Everything is broken up into several sections that talk about different facets of mental health, from the actual diagnosed issues themselves to the stigma attached to them and each section culminates in one of the musical numbers written for the show. Every song is just gorgeous and varies between the comedic highs of The Doo Doo Song to the entire sequence that directly follows it that details the lows of a bipolar episode, the music is beautiful and funny until it decides to be poignant and heartstopping… but it’s also so good.
What makes Mental As Everything work as well as it does is the raw honestly of Damon and Adam, both of whom admit during the film itself how hard it is to make something like this which exposes them at their most vulnerable but how it’s worth it if it helps someone. The entire film has that feeling of a pair of mates telling you that it’ll be OK because they’re dealing with the same thing you are and they’re there for you. It’s impossible not to love and respect how open and honest it all is, while also just being a great little musical.
Even the length of this film feels perfect, Mental As Everything is quick and intimate at a little under an hour but it uses every second to its full advantage. There’s not a second wasted, it’s either trying to impart some important information about what a certain mental health issue feels like or offer some form of comfort between the musical numbers. It’s not going for big flashy Broadway musicals style performances, it knows that a guy singing honestly with a ukelele can be the most effective thing for getting such an important message across to an audience.
Mental As Everything is one of the best musical expressions about mental health that I’ve seen in a long time, right up there with the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Next To Normal. Hell, I’d dare say that Mental As Everything is the child of those two vastly different shows, taking the comedic elements from one and the serious emotion from the other to create an interesting and engaging hybrid of genres that works kind of perfectly for a show about mental health. I don’t know for sure if Mental As Everything is going to be the thing that ends the stigma around mental health, but I’m sure it’s going to help somebody and at least get people thinking.
Also, apparently they’re still touring the actual cabaret show of Mental As Everything so I’m going to link to their website and if you can catch the show, based on this documentary I’d say it’d be worth the time.