Because of the impact of the global pandemic, mental health has been a compelling topic of conversation, as so many of us have had to go through a lot enduring the isolation, fear, uncertainty, and loss that has come with the ongoing trauma. These discussions are vital, as are the artistic reflections of personal struggle and adjustment that present themselves in healing stories such as Amy Koppelman’s raw A Mouthful of Air.
Ostensibly a showcase for leading lady Amanda Seyfried, the drama pushes past that singular label to also become a valuable tool in helping those affected by depression, anxiety and grief better understand the weight of those issues… and the weight that ones we love might be carrying if they suffer from these feelings.
Amanda Seyfried gives an authentic and brutally honest performance in A Mouthful of Air.
Coping with her crippling depression is hard enough for bestselling children’s author Julie Davis (Amanda Seyfried), but her suicidal self-doubts are amplified when she and her husband, Ethan (Finn Wittrock), have a baby boy. Being a parent is challenging enough when you are in control of your emotions. But Julie, who already isolated her closest friends thanks to a suicide attempt, frequently finds herself paralyzed by indecision over something as simple as shopping for ingredients for her infant son’s first birthday cake, or as life-changing as moving from New York City to the suburbs.
Internal feelings of doubt, terror, indecision and dread can be difficult to convey to an audience, but Seyfried masters the art of baring her soul to the camera in A Mouthful of Air. I can’t remember the actress ever appearing as vulnerable and open as she is as Julie, a struggling wife and mother plagued by her own demons who truly doesn’t want her issues to translate to her child. As we learn more about Julie’s past, we understand that this isn’t likely. But Seyfried convinces us how much she believes in the tragedies swirling around in her head, and Koppelman succeeds by pointing the camera at her star’s expressive face and saucer-wide eyes, which team up to convey a tangible sadness you can’t ignore.
A Mouthful of Air doesn’t overlook the impact felt by the supporting cast.
A smart decision Koppelman makes in her A Mouthful of Air screenplay is to balance as much of the film’s attention on the impact Julie’s depression has on her closest inner circle as it has on her. After establishing the young mother’s fear and indecision, the movie maintains a cloud of impending dread that something terrible might happen: to Ethan, to Julie’s mother (Amy Irving), or to the couple’s children – they eventually have a daughter, as well, which opens the door to more worry in Julie’s life.
Viewing Julie’s daily struggle through the lens of the people who love her humanizes the pain and makes it relatable. You, as an audience member, might be Julie. You might know a Julie. Or you could recognize the people doing their best to do right by Julie, helping you to understand how complicated an otherwise simple decision might be because of how repercussions (real or imagined) are processed in the mind of the movie’s main character. Again, though, it’s Seyfried who conveys so much of the compelling emotions running through the narrative of A Mouthful of Air, forging authentic connections with her co-stars through her heartbreaking and raw portrayal of this conflicted woman.
A Mouthful of Air is scarily relatable for far too many.
A Mouthful of Air isn’t dramatic. It’s not melodramatic. It’s real. Amy Koppelman’s screenplay treats anxiety and depression with a refreshing, ripped-bare, un-Hollywood authenticity that’s brought to life by the subtle plot turns and Amanda Seyfried’s mature, controlled performance. At times difficult to watch because of that doom cloud shielding our characters from the light of clarity, the film still grips us in the journey of these characters, and shows tremendous growth on the part of Seyfried as a dramatic performer and emotional anchor for a painful, complicated, but human and sensitive part.