Mad to be Normal brings to life the story of R.D. Laing, a controversial psychologist with a radical treatment for mental illness involving LSD and the freedom to express their behaviours. Working out of Kingsley Hall in East London, this experimental treatment brings controversy and fame and all the demons that come with it.
Mad to be Normal takes what it is a unique, fascinating and incredible story and turns it into a merely watchable affair. Mad to be Normal is held together by a fantastic performance by David Tennant in his portrayal of R.D. Laing. Mad to be Normal has a compelling storyline, embellished by some falsity designed to portray Laing’s lifelong behaviours whilst only demonstrating a snapshot of his life. Yet as the film progresses, it moves more and more off piece. This is typified in what i can only describe as an essay thats nearly reached its wordcount manner packing an hour of events into the final thirty minutes, ending suddenly with no time for a conclusion. R.D. Laing’s story is a complex one, and the team behind Mad to be Normal have tried to graft too much into one biopic.
Actors can often raise a mediocre film to a good one. David Tennant and his cohorts Elisabeth Angliss and Gabriel Byrne nearly manage this, but Mad to be Normal still manages to fall short of anything but decent. Tennant’s Glaswegian accent for me is a hit (and should be done more often), and his descent into alcoholism and depression is fantastic. He also manages to portrayal a real sense of devotion effortlessly and it’s always a shame to see great performances pulled down by their script.
For those looking for something different, or perhaps a film that tackles the brutal treatment of mental illness by those meant to be helping them, I would certainly recommend they watch Mad to be Normal, but with so many good films out there, I’d say this one can wait.
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