“Crazy people are considered mad by the rest of the society only because their intelligence isn’t understood.” Chinese writer Zhou Weihui clearly has her own outspoken opinion about madness but the quote could have easily come from Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, who became famous in the sixties for his new and controversial look on how to treat psychological illness.
Instead of using tranquilisers and electric shocks, he focussed on a drugs-free treatment, using group therapy and collective curing.
His incredible story gained worldwide knowledge and now writer-director Robert Mullan (Gitel, We Will Sing) decided to use it for his latest movie Mad To Be Normal. With David Tennant in the leading role, the film takes you on a crazy but bumpy ride.
Kingsley Hall. Home to RD Laing (David Tennant) and his mad patients, who might leave the sanctuary even worse than how they went in.
No drugs (apart from medically licensed LSD) or shock treatments. Just the power of communal healing. Despite his “mad” patients, Laing’s life is pretty normal. Giving lectures, listening to his patients and spending time with his daughters.
Until he meets Angie (Elizabeth Moss) who turns his world completely upside down. They start a relationship and while their love flourishes immensely at the beginning, it doesn’t take long before cracks become visible.
While Laing is too busy dealing with his patients and his job, Angie wants her husband more by her side, which leads to heated arguments. Things are getting even worse when one of Laing’s daughters gets incurably ill and he gets dragged into a downwards spiral filled with booze and cigarettes.
There’s sadly even room for psychical abuse. Will the couple be able to conquer the problems or will Laing end up being stuck in his own madhouse?
As you probably already noticed, the story of Mad To Be Normal is quiet simple. A doctor using his own but controversial methods to cure his patients while dealing with a personal life.
Nothing explosive, over-entertaining or incredibly spectacular. Sadly that makes this movie a very slow and dragging one. Even when things literally (during the fire outbreak) and figuratively (during the abusive moments) are heating up, the film goes on at a snail’s pace. A little bit more power would have been welcome.
That being said, that film is still very intriguing and enjoyable to watch. Especially because of the very character driven element of Mad To Be Normal.
David Tennant (You, Me and Him, Dr Who) is without a doubt sublime as Laing, the crazy, volatile and incredible charismatic doctor. One who can be heated tempered and mad at one time while being empathetic and gentle at another.
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, High-Rise) is mesmerizing as the compassionate and loving wife who’s not afraid to fight for what she believes in, even when it goes against all the believes of her nutty husband.
Laing’s closest friend Jim is being portrayed by the intriguing Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary, The Vikings) who puts on a display as the anxious friend who’s afraid of losing everyone he has. Especially his best friend.
Other amazing performances came from Olivia Poulet (The Thick of It; Back), David Bamber (Trust, A Very English Scandal), and Michael Gambon (Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Fearless).
If you’re looking for a film which will make you dazzle by its breath-taking action scenes or shocking plot twist then Mad To Be Normal won’t satisfy your desire. However if you don’t mind a movie in which the characters are being put in front of the story then the newest Robert Mullan film should be right up your street