Review: Helen DVD

STUDIO: Entertainment One | DIRECTOR: Sandra Nettelbeck | CAST: Ashley Judd, Goran Visnjic, Lauren Lee Smith, Alexia Fast, Alberta Watson
RELEASE DATE: 6/8/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.98, Blu-ray $24.98
BONUSES: cast interviews
SPECS: NR | 120 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Helen is depressed. And a seemingly perfect life with a devoted husband, no matter how hot he is, can’t pull her out of it, according to the drama movie of the same name. Starring Ashley Judd (Tooth Fairy) as music professor Helen and Goran Visnjic (ER) as her husband David, this slow-moving drama from writer/director Sandra Nettlebeck (Mostly Martha) is a thoughtful study of clinical depression, but the independent film borders on the cliché.

The movie opens at a party for Helen, whose life looks like the happy ending of any chick flick — adoring husband, happy daughter (Alexia Fast), designer house. But soon after, Helen starts showing the classic signs of depression: she oversleeps, she cries for no reason, she stares out into space bored at a dinner party.

A doctor tells her husband she’s not unhappy, she’s sick. It’s a message the film knocks viewers over the head with, going out of the way to show how great Helen has it, with a husband who drops work to care for her and utters lines like “you’re the one” even after she’s pushed him to the side for a bipolar friend (Lauren Lee Smith). Of course, Judd’s Helen still looks stunning even after multiple suicide attempts, which gives the movie a Lifetime Network feel.

Judd’s performance is the reason to watch the film, although she can be overly melodramatic at time. But that’s more because we’re treated to back-to-back scenes of Helen being depressed without much action, as the filmmakers attempt to give a realistic portrayal of mental illness. It strikes without cause. Unfortunately, the realism doesn’t pull viewers in or give us a reason to pull for Helen.

Visnjic is almost more empathetic as the supportive husband who just doesn’t get it. Viewers share his position. We can see that there’s nothing lacking from Helen’s life, she should be happy. Instead she cries and mopes and pushes her husband and daughter away. When she tells her husband at one point that he doesn’t understand, she may as well be screaming at us.

But, that’s the problem — Helen isn’t able to shed enough light to make us care.

The DVD is scant on special features, offering just some interviews with the cast.


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About Jennifer

Jennifer Netherby is a freelance writer who has written about movies, music and technology for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Video Business, where she worked as a reporter for nine years. She’s addicted to British crime dramas and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.