Elizabeth Blue tells the story of a young woman (Anna Schafter) struggling with tremendous mental health issues. Living with her devoted fiancé Grant (Ryan Vincent), she is plagued by hallucinations and voices in her head to the extent of emotional paralysis. Finally, with the help of her new therapist, Dr. Bowman (Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje), she begins to gradually face her inner turmoil in an attempt to find freedom from her deepest hurts and fears.
Based on the real-life events of writer/director Vincent Sabella’s journey with schizophrenia, Elizabeth Blue carries with it a deep sense of authenticity. While the pacing of the film can be slow at times, the strength of the performances keeps the film engaging and powerful, especially Schafer herself. While she has been acting for some time, Elizabeth is Schafer’s first starring role. Taking on a character who struggles with such strong mental health issues would be a challenge to the most seasoned actresses but Schafer’s hard work and preparation shows as she imbues Elizabeth with humility, pain, and affection. Roles like this carry with them a significant responsibility to a people group in unspoken pain and, thankfully, Schafer’s portrayal of Elizabeth appears both sensitive and honest.
The film itself is a reminder of the silent pain of so many others whose stories go unnoticed. On the surface, Elizabeth appears quiet and inconspicuous yet, underneath, she is in constant emotional turmoil. Her delusions range from the comfortable (including a poignant scene with a raccoon) to terrifying (such as her anxiety over train noises), pushing her sanity to the brink. In many ways, she represents the unseen suffering. Her pain is immeasurable but completely contained within her, making it difficult for those around her to offer help. Her mother is antagonistic and over-protective. Her previous therapist was unable to help.
In fact, only Grant seems to be able to break through the bleakness of Elizabeth’s suffering, not by offering counsel but simply by accepting and loving her as she is. Through his acts of unconditional grace, Grant offers her a safe space from herself. The love he exhibits provides stability by listening to and standing with her in the midst of her inner turmoil. By modeling God-like devotion, he provides an example of what it means to help those who struggle, remaining committed and supportive in the hardest of times.
Elizabeth Blue is a film that will surprise you, and not only through the story. With strong performances from its leads, the film also serves as a cry on behalf of those screaming in silence. While often ignored by the general public, Blue reminds us that there are many who require patience, grace and, most importantly, unconditional love in order to experience the freedom they so badly seek.
Elizabeth Blue will receive limited release on Friday, September 22nd and a wider release on September 29th.