Review Round-Up: The Struggle to Manage Mental Illness in ‘Elizabeth Blue’

Earlier this year, we brought you news of Vincent Sabella’s new independent film, Elizabeth Blue, in which the title character (played by Anna Schafer) battles her schizophrenia with medication and therapy.

Poster for the film Elizabeth Blue

Elizabeth Blue premiered at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in February, and will be released in the U.S. on September 22nd. Early reviews of the film are starting to pop up online, giving us a glimpse of what we can expect out of this story, which was inspired by Sabella’s own struggle with mental illness.

Let’s take a look at what the critics are saying about Elizabeth Blue:

“Empathetic and yet ultimately too draggy to elicit much engagement with its paper-thin story, Elizabeth Blue proves at once well-intentioned and inert. .. It’s an ordeal that’s crafted in consistently believable terms. However, with scant narrative incident and even less momentum, the film feels like a short stretched out to feature length, and seems better suited to find an audience on streaming services than in theaters. …[T]he movie conveys an authentic sense of the head-spinning hurdles faced by people suffering from the sorts of issues (schizophrenia, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder) that plague Elizabeth. … Elizabeth Blue eventually does decide on an end-point, although no matter its thematic aptness, said conclusion has a gimmicky genre-movie quality that’s at odds with the preceding action’s air of gravity.” — Nick Schager, 

“The film by writer/director Vincent Sabella (and co-writer Alfred D. Huffington) captures Elizabeth’s schizophrenia in a way as unique as every patient’s own condition.  Sabella let’s scenes play long because that’s when you really experience it. Most people can get by in moments they’re forced to function socially, but not indefinitely. It’s when the defenses break down that we need loved ones to be understanding and supportive. Elizabeth Blue gets there. … The moments of silence are most relatable to me. When Elizabeth is alone and her hallucinations give her a break, she lingers in the silence. Sabella uses the widescreen frame and empty space. The stillness is welcome when Elizabeth needs it. Not that it’s always pleasant. Depression can be silent and lonely too so it’s the balance everybody must find, let alone people whose bodies are literally conspiring to make them feel sad, anxious, suicidal or worse. … With every potential progress comes more hurdles to overcome, including unsupportive family members who deny the diagnosis. The dialogue goes there and confronts these issues. It’s empowering when Elizabeth can be strong in the face of them and the film is sensitive to Grant’s desire to be there with her, even though there are times there’s nothing he can say or do, and he can’t entirely identify with her experience. …I hope people discover Elizabeth Blue for many reasons. Sabella is a storyteller to watch. Schafer is a breakthrough. If you have or know someone with mental illness, learn more about it and successful treatments. If you don’t, keep championing stories about mental illness because it will make the world more compassionate.” –Fred Topel,

“In all, Vincent Sabella, who directed and co-wrote Elizabeth Blue, did an admirable job of this drama which feels like it’d be just as perfect as a stage play. Keep in mind that Mr. Sabella is himself a victim of schizophrenia. I suppose his familiarity with the subject shows all too well through his painful depiction of what life is like with the illness. …As for the music? What can I say except that it was perfectly chosen. Truly heart touching and appropriate for the film’s subject matter. So much so that I’m looking forward to owning the soundtrack once it’s available. Interestingly, the more time I spend thinking about this film the more I come to appreciate every bit of it. Hopefully you’ll have the same experience.” –Ernesto Diaz,

Look for Elizabeth Blue at a theatre near you beginning September 22nd!

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