Review: ‘Joker’ brings light to mental health issues

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As the credits for “Joker” roll across the screen, viewers might need to take some time to process the film’s stunning and complex storyline.

Fresh off his success of “A Star is Born,” Todd Phillips brings audiences into the dystopian society of Gotham City, introducing the backstory of Batman’s arch-rival.

The film’s protagonist, Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a failed comedian with a mental illness that causes him to laugh uncontrollably and usually gets him into bad situations. Bullied and ignored in society, Fleck begins a slow spiral into madness, as he transforms into the infamous criminal known as the Joker.

The film gives viewers a raw insight into the mind of those who struggle with mental illness to the point of crippling their ability to communicate normally in society.

Trailer courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie’s unpredictability will keep you on the edge of your seat for the film’s full two hours, making Phoenix’s rendition of the infamous villain Oscar-worthy.

While “Joker” is predictable in the sense that bad things will happen, viewers are constantly shocked by the actions Fleck takes to prove his isolation in the world. Perhaps Phillips goes a little too far with this point by leaving no room for audience members to breathe, feeling anxious about what else could possibly go wrong.

Presenting difficult topics with a deeper meaning is nothing new for Phillips, who is known for exposing his audiences to these types of subjects; in “A Star is Born,” he introduced characters who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse.

While the concepts developed in “Joker” were more focused on mental illness, audiences can still be triggered and forced to think about society’s impact on those who are different from them.

The plot of “Joker” is disturbingly captivating, due to Fleck’s inability to control his laughter that gives people the wrong impression of him.

If that doesn’t hook you, be sure to always pay attention to the obsessive relationships created in Fleck’s mind, which will keep you wondering which interactions are real or not.

In addition to letting Phoenix shine, one additional character that stood out was Penny Fleck, played by Frances Conroy. As Arthur’s mom, Penny was Arthur’s only ally throughout the movie, although she herself was mentally ill and incapable of caring for herself.

Phoenix was the obvious star of the film, with his portrayal of an unhinged, detached, criminal-in-the-making character. The acting is so believable that audiences will be easily amazed by Phoenix’s effortless performance.

Keep in mind this movie is not about superheroes, but it remains focused on the villain himself and what led him to become so twisted.

Verdict: 8/10

“Joker” is a journey through the graphic demise and self-destruction of Arthur Fleck, acting as a true thriller and comedy, leaving you devastated. My suggestion: listen to the warnings presented on social media and in the theaters about graphic imagery, because I was not prepared for the amount of bloodshed. However, I believe this movie is an important narrative for society to see how bullying can lead people down a path of destruction, hopefully inspiring others to be kind in the end.