Review Round-Up: “God Knows Where I Am”
Memory is a fickle beast: it seems to latch on permanently to details of no consequence, only to malfunction at the most inopportune of times.
It is the remarkable power of my memory that alerted me to the fact that I had written about the new documentary God Knows Where I Am waaaayyyy back in 2013, when it was still a work in progress. It is also the remarkable fault of my memory that I left half an avocado sitting behind the fish tank for an entire afternoon, but I digress.
God Knows Where I Am tells the story of Linda Bishop, a woman in New Hampshire whose severe bipolar disorder and psychosis often resulted in her incarceration, and eventually led to her being committed to a state psychiatric facility for three years. While in the facility, Linda refused all medication and treatment, and successfully managed an early release. It was then Linda made her way on foot to an abandoned farmhouse ten miles from the hospital, where she lived for four months off of apples and rainwater. Chronicling her daily life in a journal, Linda eventually died of starvation, and her body was discovered several months later. Linda’s story–and the question of whether the mental healthcare system failed her–is carefully and sensitively explored by director-producers Jedd Wider and Todd Wider.
Let’s take a look at what the critics have to say about God Knows Where I Am:
“The film lets its characters condemn where they will (Linda’s sister shakes with anger at the hospital that discharged her without informing anyone), but the documentary itself largely refrains from passing judgement on any one entity. If there are villains here, Linda’s illness — as a thing separate from its victim — and a society that stigmatizes mental health issues must suffice…. Inasmuch as God Knows Where I Am doesn’t point fingers, neither does it offer solutions to the issues it raises. Rather, it closes on a kind of ellipsis, by which it’s clear that Linda’s story might be over, but there are thousands of others that are ongoing, and as a culture, we are no better at dealing with them than we were a decade ago. And while the film’s title may represent an affirmation of faith to some, its more colloquial usage may be more apt here — a simple admission of being hopelessly, helplessly lost.” — Jessica Kiang, Variety.com
“As it gets into the literal details of how Linda wound up here, the film raises concerns about America’s health care policies that are more pressing thanks to the roundabout way we’ve gotten to them. But the film is too invested in the personal to get very political. At its heart, it remains a quiet elegy for a woman who needn’t have died so soon, or so alone.” — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
“This documentary…addresses unresolved issues of personal autonomy versus a patient’s inability to protect herself. It will haunt you.” –Andy Webster, The New York Times
“The effort is noble, to give Bishop a chance to tell her story, however compromised its framing and end product might be, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. It’s remarkable that a sad woman’s tale could be narrativized on film, instead of becoming just another mental health statistic, but a good documentary explores the issues it explains in more detail, and offers an invitation to the viewer to learn more. God Knows Where I Am leaves only a trace behind of a dead woman’s soul. It’s not enough to flesh out a nearly two-hour-long documentary, and it’s not enough information to keep a viewer interested, no matter how closely they may relate to the subject matter.” — Tina Hassannia, RogerEbert.com
God Knows Where I Am was released in the U.S. on March 31. You can visit the film’s site for more information.
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