Inspired by director Joey Klein’s personal experience with grief, The Other Half is a modern love story involving Nickie (Tom Cullen), a man haunted by the loss of a family member, and Emily (Tatiana Maslany), an artist with bipolar disorder.
Best described by the w ord anticipation, The Other Half alternates ambient light with powerful colours, loud and sometimes edgy music, tense dialogue and prominent body language, building up each character’s image little by little. Whether that is Klein’s way of deliberately dispensing information about his characters, or due to the complexity of how mental health issues impact on interpersonal relationships, is up for every one of us to decide.
Nickie is a British guy living abroad in Canada, with a history of changing girls, fights at night clubs and scars on his knuckles. Heartbeats, blurry flashbacks follow him throughout the film, building up an impression of a grieving guy with deep internal struggles. As the story progresses, we find out that Nickie’s brother has disappeared five years ago, leading to a deep hole in his family. Nickie’s fragmented relationship with his parents becomes apparent from the numerous monotonous conversations over the phone that persist throughout the movie.
Emily, a colourful, playful and mysterious artist, appears – accidently or not – in the right place at the right time to “save” Nickie. But it does not take long for their blazing love at first sight to turn into a rollercoaster of emotions. The tender scenes of love and intimacy soon grow up into something more than just being “high on love”. Emily goes through an excruciating manic episode which sees loud music, paint and colours followed by some of the most intense moments in the film.
Some months later Emily and Nickie start a journey in which shared moments of intimacy and laughter are accompanied with a taste of bitterness. They create a combustable ‘push-and-pull’ relationship, desperately needing each other but struggling to maintain a balance because of the accumulated problems with their families and themselves. Introduced as a violent guy, Nickie remains silent and passive in the second half of the film. Once finding expression through anger, his feelings of distance and helplessness become even more apparent through the contrast with Emily. On or off medication, she struggles to be in control of herself, even as she tries to cope with her emotions for the sake of their happiness.
The Other Half is not a story in which love wins against all the odds. It is a quiet drama that represents reality as it is, with no sugar-coating. Its main goal is to present a realistic depiction of what love can bring and take when it happens between people with similar internal issues. The end of the film remains open for the audience to fill in the gaps, yet still everyone knows that despite having each other, Nickie is not going to stop grieving and Emily is not going to get better. It made me ask myself whether finding your other half is all you need, when you do not know your other self.
by Katerina Gospodinova
Katerina is a final year PhD student in molecular psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh. She believes that art and science can work hand in hand to raise awareness and fight the preconceptions surrounding mental illness. Follow her on Twitter at @KaterinaGospodi.