Underrated Movies: Manic (2001)


Manic follows a teenage boy named Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He gets sent to a psychiatric hospital for brutally beating another teen with a baseball bat.

What’s Good About It? Manic is a very emotional and powerful film. Lyle’s interaction with the other teens in the psych ward are the best part and each of the characters are memorable. His struggle to control his aggression gives the film a very tense feeling, as do the other teens in the ward who all have their own respective issues.

Perhaps, the best thing about this film is it’s realness. Teens like this are very real and the movie seeks to provide an understanding of them without being preachy or corny. And it also shows the many places where their problems can stem from with the diverse personalities an issues of the characters.

It also so doesn’t provide the audience with a happy ending, instead it offers an ambiguous one. Which goes back to it’s realness. It’s not a feel-good movie, in fact, the majority of the film carries an unrelenting feeling of depression. But this is needed, to create a vivid and truthful portrait of those like Lyle and the other characters.

The main people Lyle interacts with are: Tracy who has nightmares do to a traumatic event, Sara an artist with anger issues, Kenny the victim of molestation, Chad who’s bipolar and unstable, and Michael an antagonist of the movie who’s pretty much a sociopath. The actors play their characters well, capturing the emotion and anger the film wants to present. All of them are captivating in their own way.

Sara, is the character that seemed to have the most potential to get better and leave the ward, and she does. But with the others it isn’t so clear. Michael is representative of those more hopeless cases, someone that’s almost completely gone ā€“ you can’t tell him anything. With Kenny and Chad it’s unlikely they could ever be the same, especially. Tracy and Lyle’s potential are the most ambiguous.

The ending could be showing how real-life people in Lyle’s situation often get caught in a cycle ā€“ and how they’re not sure where to go.

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