It was the 9th of January.
A grey, crisp morning sat outside my front window. But I was not paying attention. My phone screen had my eyes glued to it. My father tried to make early morning chit-chat. He received none in return.
Refresh refresh refresh.
Sweat was forming on my forehead but there was no time to wipe it off. I barked orders at my father to join in my quest. On my iPad I kept constant contact with my friend as we were both in this together. If we both fail, it’s all over.
Then, the worst happened.
My heart sunk to my stomach. I looked up at my ceiling with betrayal, curse words forming at my lips, my father trying to comfort me, but it wasn’t enough. I had failed.
Then, I got the message from my friend.
I GOT THE TICKETS!
And with that, we were on our way to see Mad to Be Normal – the closing gala of Glasgow Film Festival 2017 – on the 26th of February.
The red carpet was laid out in front of the GFT’s entrance. Giddy young girls flashed their phones and squealed as David Tennant took pictures with them. I saw the back of his head. It was enough to quench my inner fangirl.
Once into the GFT (through the side entrance) we were given a free drink: a whiskey cocktail in a small plastic bottle. I had a sip but took the rest home with me. I wasn’t going to turn down something free.
Then, on each seat, there sat a bag of popcorn. After paying £15 per ticket, I was feeling a bit better about the price.
Sadly the only cinema we could get tickets for was Cinema 2. However the GFT had a camera in Cinema 1 (where all the stars of the movie sat along with various other VIPs) so live footage was relayed to us. We were successfully kept in the loop and I couldn’t fault the organisers for that.
However, don’t ask me to clap for ScotRail. Are you kidding?
After a few thank-yous, a short speech from director Robert Mullan, and a hyper speel from David Tennant that made me fall in love with him even more, the movie began.
Instantly I wasn’t impressed. The titles seemed tacky and unprofessional to me. It only got worse when text appeared on the screen to tell me, “the sixties.” I initially thought this was because the time period would constantly change during the film but no other titles appeared stating a time period change. Furthermore, why have a title telling the audience where a particular scene is set? Just show them! It’s in Glasgow? Show a Glasgow landmark. They’re now in New York? Show something constantly associated with New York! That’s the beauty of film; you don’t need to tell the audience anything – just show them.
Furthermore, I felt the editing and transitions between scenes was sticky. I believe it was to show the mental state of the characters involved but seeing the screen fade to black only to quickly jump to another scene made the film feel amateur. Yet I did like the merging of archive footage with the film. Usually I hate this creative choice but for this film it worked perfectly and I wish they had used it more.
Putting the editing aside, I don’t have much to complain about this film. I mean, who can fault David Tennant? My boyfriend pointed out that while his initial introduction to the character was highly believable, it seemed like his commitment to the character fizzled out very quickly. This was possibly because footage of R D Laing is limited and the footage that is easy to find is from interviews where he stutters and takes long breaths.
However, after doing some research on the famous psychiatrist, I found an article the BBC wrote from Dr Laing’s son’s point of view. Adrian Laing was not impressed with Mad to Be Normal and even goes as far to state that he “doesn’t recognise” his father. After looking into R D Laing for myself, I discovered that his love interest, Angie (Elisabeth Moss) and colleague/good friend, Paul (Adam Paul Harvey) in the movie actually do not exist. History paints quite a different picture which I find highly disappointing. I would rather be told of the truth – or, at most, a highly exaggerated version of the truth.
Yet, I fail to find someone who can nail emotional scenes like Tennant. No one can make me cringe less than him during scenes that could easily turn into a cliche or hard to watch. He can easily break my heart with one voice break. Even if that’s not how it really happened.
“I helped bring you into this world, I’ll help you out of it.”
Tears. I felt the script was very believable. It had the right mix of drama and comedy to keep me interested. But, seriously, what is it with people laughing at swearing? Is it a millennial thing to not be phased by a f-bomb anymore?
Overall, I don’t have much to say. I can’t say I adored the film, and I wasn’t blown away, but I also didn’t hate it and would watch it again. I was mostly intrigued. There is no doubting that Dr Laing is a fascinating man. The way that the film was pitched to me, I expected more detail to be told of his studies into LSD and the film would revolve around this. However, it mostly focused on Dr Laing himself and how he dealt with controversy, family and work. After finding out that this is apparently incorrect, it only makes me more intrigued.
Maybe this was the purpose of the film, maybe it was not. Overall, I believe if you have the power to portray someone’s life on screen you should do it as accurately as possible in order to honour them. For example: Hacksaw Ridge.
Although the film itself was interesting and compelling to watch, I have to admit it lost a lot of respect from me when I realised characters I sympathised with were merely fictional. My main advice? Take this Ronnie Laing as a character and not as a historical figure.