'No Letting Go': Film Review

Courtesy of Vision Films
A sensitive treatment of important subject matter.
3/25/2016

A family is forced to cope with the strain of a teenager suffering from mental illness in Jonathan D. Bucari's feature debut.

It's obvious that Jonathan D. Bucari's feature directorial debut is a labor of love. Adapted from his short film Illness, No Letting Go is based on the real-life experiences of its co-writer/producer Randi Silverman, who has a child suffering from mental illness. Unsparing in its depiction of the emotional toll the situation takes on family members, the film will no doubt prove deeply meaningful to many viewers, particularly those with similar personal experiences. 

The film's early section concerns how 10-year-old Timothy (David Schallipp) begins showing signs of anxiety, causing his concerned parents Henry (Richard Burgi, Desperate Housewives) and Catherine (Cheryl Allison) to send him to a therapist. Cut to four years later, when the teenager (now played by Noah Silverman, the screenwriter's son and the brother of the film's real-life inspiration) has only gotten worse, with chilling displays of aggression and heartbreaking bouts of severe depression. His increasingly erratic behavior naturally causes tension between Timothy's parents, who disagree over what should be done, and his siblings, older brother Kyle (Jan Uczkowski) and younger brother Jessie (Julian Murdoch).

The film proves harrowing in its realistic depiction of its central character's manic episodes and such poignant situations as his mother's anguish over sending her child away for treatment. But it also offers measures of hope in its scenes showing Timothy being treated by caring therapists, played by, among others: Kathy Najimy, in a departure from her usual comic roles; and Neal Huff, as the sympathetic director of a rural treatment center.

The film boasts many well-observed moments, such as when a little girl, disturbed by Timothy's condition, asks, "Is it contagious?" And it painstakingly details the myriad treatments and drugs attendant to his condition. But it also devolves into melodrama with a subplot involving the mother being faced with a devastating health diagnosis. Even if drawn from real life, it seems like piling on in a story that already has more than its share of dramatic elements.

Production: Demian Pictures, Illness Productions

Distributor: Vision Films

Cast: Cheryl Allison, Richard Brugl, Kathy Najimy, Noah Silverman, Janet Hubert, Alysia Reiner, Jared Gilman, Noah Fleiss

Director/editor: Jonathan D. Bucari

Screenwriters: Jonathan D. Bucari, Randi Silverman

Producers: Jonathan D. Bucari, Carina Rush, Randi Silverman

Director of photography: Oren Soffer

Production designer: Tyler Wallach

Costume designer: Hilary Rosenfeld

Composer: Alain Mayrand

Casting: Denise Simon

Not rated, 104 minutes

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