Drunk on Too Much Life

In a world gone crazy, a young woman discovers that her madness is a fierce and powerful gift that makes her more fully human.
by
Year Released
2021
Film Length(s)
77 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL

Introduction

Drunk on Too Much Life is an intimate and powerful documentary following the filmmaker's 21-year-old daughter’s mind-opening journey from locked-down psych wards and diagnostic labels towards expansive worlds of creativity, connection and greater meaning. On their journey, the family begins to question the widespread idea that mental illness should be understood in purely biological terms. They learn the myriad ways that madness has meaning that goes far beyond brain chemistry.

Featured review

"[This] inspiring documentary sheds light on mental health struggles in relation to higher levels of creativity and emotional connection... While the film acknowledges the hardships that mental illness can bring, it also celebrates the creative visions and heightened perceptions of those who experience mental illness... Drunk on Too Much Life would be a great pick for a documentary film collection in a public or academic library that focuses on mental health or creativity."
Christian Gainey
Video Librarian

Synopsis

"As you start to walk on the way, the way appears." Rumi.

This intimate and powerful feature documentary, Drunk on Too Much Life follows the filmmaker's 21-year-old-daughter’s mind-opening journey from locked-down psych ward and countless medications towards expansive worlds of creativity, connection and greater meaning. On their journey, the family begins to question the widespread idea that mental illness should be understood in purely biological terms. They learn the myriad ways that madness has meaning that goes far beyond brain chemistry. Recovery is not a straight path to being cured but a crooked and bumpy journey and series of small awakenings.

A grass-roots celebration of holistic care through self-awareness, family connection, supportive communities and peer-support, Drunk on Too Much Life shows how lasting healing and transformation happens on each of these levels simultaneously: in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our society at large.

Subject Areas: Psychology, Psychiatry, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Disability Studies, Mad Studies, Education, Special Education, Narrative Medicine, Creative Arts.

Reviews

Drunk on Too Much Life is a deeply searching film of fear and redemption in the face of a crisis of the mind.
Daniel Bergner
Author of The Mind and the Moon, contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine
Drunk on Too Much Life is a brave and powerful personal documentary that radically makes us rethink mental illness. It is a must-view film for mental health practitioners and families alike as it offers a unique, holistic, and much-needed perspective on the journey towards recovery.
Samantha Wehbi
MSW, RSW, MFA, PhD, Professor, School of Social Work, Toronto Metropolitan University (Formerly Ryerson)
Drunk on Too Much Life tells an expansive story of mental health that uplifts all facets of what makes us human: creativity, connection, and culture. The documentary invites the audience to transcend an illness-only paradigm of mental health, and witness the transformative potential when storytelling and meaning-making are foregrounded in these experiences.
Jessie Roth
Director, Institute for the Development of Human Arts, NYC
We've all heard stories of mad artists or seen biopics about creative geniuses who channelled their inner demons into radical, transformative art. The doc explores these ideas with a personal approach as Corrina and other mental health advocates inspire audiences to frame the ways in which we perceive and discuss mental health.
Patrick Mullen
POV Magazine
I am thankful to Michelle Melles and her family for the opportunity to watch this compelling and challenging documentary. As someone who feels most at home at the intersection of music and mental health, I was delighted to see the threads of music, art and family woven into Corrina's recovery story. Much like the music which infuses the film, there is an unwavering sense of optimism throughout the film as well as a commitment to breaking down the seemingly arbitrary divisions that remain in our siloed mental health system. Much like the music which infuses the film, there is an unwavering sense of optimism throughout the film as well as a commitment to breaking down the seemingly arbitrary divisions that remain in our siloed mental health system. There were several difficult moments in the film in which I found myself talking back to the screen. Perhaps this is a strong indication that the film accomplishes what it sets out to do—namely to initiate conversations about recovery, about fragmentation of mental health care, about the multiplicity of factors contributing to wellness. Once again, I am humbled when thinking about our fragmented system, the challenge of treating the whole person and the limitations of our clinical language and applaud Corrina, Pedro and Michelle for this thoughtful film.
Ken Harrison
MD University Health Network, RECONNECT Community Health Services, University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry
Drunk on Too Much Life is a beautiful exploration of a family's journey to understand, survive, and celebrate their daughter's mental health challenges. Through a heartfelt examination of language, mysticism, art, and nature, this film questions so much of what we know about psychosis and alternate realities and has the power to change how we understand and approach treatment and healing.
Elisa Gorez
MSW, RSW, Stella's Place, Young Adult Mental Health, Toronto
An important film that invites us to examine our preconceptions about mental illness and the way language and labels limit our understanding. Deeply intimate and compassionate, this film teaches us that we are all connected and that healing takes place in community.
Dagmar Schroeder
Stella's Place Young Adult Mental Health Toronto
[Drunk on Too Much Life] strives to change how people perceive those with mental health issues framing their conditions as potentially insightful gives rather than burdensome disorders and will lead to conversations about ways the Canadian [and American] mental health programme succeeds and fails to accommodate and support young people in their healing.
Toronto Guardian
Toronto Guardian
Melles' film, Drunk on Too Much Life is an intimate, emotional journey of recovery that's consistently compelling and thought-provoking…. Drunk on Too Much Life offers a new perspective on how society views mental illness.
CJRU.ca
CJRU.ca

Awards and Screenings

Director Commentary

When our daughter Corrina was six years old, she began to worry about 'going crazy’ and described it as "being drunk on too much life" – a beautiful and poetic way to describe the intensely emotional and psychic experiences she would later experience. After her first ‘psychotic break’ when she was 21, our family knew no other way to conceptualize states of ‘madness’ except for what psychiatrists told us. This film is our search for a different story and language with which to understand hearing voices and seeing visions, stepping outside of the biomedical perspective. As Sascha DuBrul, one of the main participants in the film says: “Defining ourselves outside of convention, we see our conditions as dangerous gifts to be cultivated and taken care of rather than seen as diseases or disorders needed to be ‘cured’ or eliminated.”

In a deeply personal way, the film advocates for a new narrative of mental health that is grounded in lived experience, holistic recovery, community, creativity, and connection. My aim is changing the culture and language surrounding mental health care to one that is truly person-centered, recovery-oriented, and trauma-informed. I want to celebrate each person’s full humanity and their right to make meaning of their experiences and make choices about their lives. The film is both a love letter from me to my daughter and to community-based and peer support healing models. All the participants in the film are connected to our family, including the renowned speaker and author Dr. Gabor Maté.

Many personal documentaries that explore issues surrounding mental health focus on the parent, sibling or the filmmaker who struggles with mental illness. These films, and the media surrounding these films are often enmeshed with the biomedical model of health which is the dominant way we treat mental illness in Canada and the U.S.A. This film is unique in that it journeys outside of the asylum towards a more complex understanding of mental health. Its POV is of a family’s journey towards healing involving a holistic understanding of extreme psychic experiences such as hearing voices or seeing visions – often labelled as “psychosis.” The film is a kaleidoscopic journey towards healing and recovery, telling a different more complex story of what gets called mental illness.

As a filmmaker and mother, I have never seen a personal documentary exploring mental health from the parents and daughter’s POV – together and intertwined on their road to healing and greater understanding. A grass-roots celebration of transformative mental health through self-awareness, supportive families, communities, and peer-support, I stayed away from talking head psychiatric expert and focused instead on ‘open dialogue’ and a poetic visual language that celebrates creativity. This film moves beyond medicalized and disease-centered thinking towards regenerative, holistic, and transformative mental health practices. DOTML rebels against the straight walls of the asylum and illuminates how the interesting journeys are never taken on concrete roads - especially journeys of the mind, creativity, and spirit. To quote Jeanette Winterson: “Going mad is the beginning of a journey it’s not supposed to be the end result.”

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • DVD Extras
  • Transcript

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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