A LOOK INTO A FAMILY MANAGING MENTAL ILLNESS
Broken Diamonds is a heart-felt, chaotic love story, directed by Peter Sattler, between siblings as one tries to escape the family issues stemmed from his older sister’s mental illness, schizophrenia. The film begins with the death of their father. It appears that Scott, the protagonist played by Ben Platt, takes the lead in helping his stepmother, Cookie, played by Yvette Nicole Brown (known as Shirley Bennett on the NBC comedy series Community), with arrangements and final goodbyes while his sister stays in the car. Quickly, one can tell that Cindy, the sister with schizophrenia played by Lola Kirke, may have some sort of disorder or mental health condition, which is confirmed when Scott drops her off at an inpatient facility. Soon after, she is dismissed due to an altercation with another patient, and Scott must balance her in his apartment before she can go to a new treatment center and making final arrangements to move to Paris within the week. The amount of chaos that ensues in such a short amount of time would drive anyone up the wall, but Scott tries his best to keep it together and stay focused on his end goal – Paris, come hell or high water.
Through small fires, looking for jobs for his sister, flashbacks as he grieves his father, and a host of other challenges, Scott hits a wall when Cindy refuses to sell their father’s house two days before Scott is supposed to board a plane. Cindy, off her medications and distraught, trashes the house and runs off. Scott tries to look everywhere and even finds her once, but she quickly experiences an episode and does not recognize her brother. She runs off screaming that the man (Scott) is trying to kill her. At his wits end, Scott tries to pass the responsibility off to his stepmom and get ready to leave the country. However, before he leaves, he makes one final attempt to find Cindy, who is near their childhood home.
Still in a delusional state, she runs away from Scott and stops on a bridge. There is a gut-wrenching moment when Cindy, still stuck in a state between reality and her own imagination, says that she killed everyone, her mother, father, Scott, and Cindy, and then starts to make the climb to become a “diamond,” which refers to an earlier conversation about cremated ashes being turned into a diamond after the fact. Just when the audience thinks this film will end in tragedy, Scott holds her hand, and she has a moment of clarity. It is just long enough for her to get down off the ledge and walk with Scott back to the car. They go to a hospital together, and everything seems to be moving in a positive direction.
Scott, at the airport finally about to take a leap for himself, sees a young family that symbolizes his own family, maybe perhaps before it seemed broken to him, and it cuts to him reading his manuscript to Cindy in the facility she is in now. In the end, things still are not perfect, but the audience can tell things are moving in the right direction for Scott and Cindy, individually and as family. The film was messy, heart-pounding, tear-jerking, and honest in a way like no other. The acting is phenomenal, especially the two stars Ben Platt and Lola Kirke. The film takes an intimate, raw look into what it can be like in a family when one member has a severe mental illness. For those who have similar experiences, it may feel like you are watching your own family on the big screen. And, for those who have no personal ties to anyone managing their mental illness(es), even they can compassionately watch this film