The Mental State follows a high school senior named Andy Cady (Jance Enslin), depicted as a kind of tortured artistic loner, and his burgeoning relationship with a manipulative, imaginary local Navy SEAL veteran named Dylan (Bryan Greenburg). Stuck in the heart of rural Kentucky, Andy is brought to the brink by Dylan’s machinations. Dylan convinces Andy to believe in dangerous conspiracies and conditions him into following his orders like Andy is one of his fellow veterans. The only person really troubled by their growing relationship is Andy’s single mother Angela (Carly Pope). As the film progresses and Andy’s behavior becomes more erratic, she begins to worry seriously for his health and safety. Andy’s beliefs and actions reach the point that he emotionally harms a fellow student. Angela, impoverished and alone, struggles to find resources to help Andy before it’s too late.
The film opens on a physical manifestation of Andy’s mental state in the form of detailed and haunted drawings. It moves to Andy doodling while attending a fundamentalist Christian camp meeting. Andy’s mother partakes in the service, thanking God for the ability to recover from the loss of her husband and her alcoholism. Andy lived away from her for a while because of her struggles. His behavior around adults and kids his own age, and his unwillingness to participate in the ‘community’ that the pastor has created, all serve to indicate early on that Andy is different. From the beginning, we get the impression that his mother‘s belief is in God while Andy is searching for something else. He is desperate to belong to something, but he has no clue what to do or who to seek guidance from.
The precipitating incident is a shooting that targets several children Andy is driving around as part of a church attraction. Andy emerges as a hero and savior until the police investigation surrounding the incident reveals that there is no evidence of bullets or damage to the car he was driving. The police and the town turn against Andy. Completely isolated and betrayed, he finds understanding in the wrong person, Dylan. It is unclear in the film how long the two have been interacting but Andy orbits around Dylan like a satellite moon. All elements of his behavior are judged and scrutinized. Dylan doesn’t care about Andy, he only cares about the ‘mission’, about molding a mind that is desperate to follow him and taking advantage of his uncertainty and fear to create a loyal foot soldier. The subtleties of this relationship is carried by the acting between Andy and Dylan’s performers, particularly Andy who conveys an innocence and naivety that is balanced by a dark, unsettling edge as the film progresses. The climax of the film is shot dynamically but also emotionally. It’s a moment of intense action but also intense fear, anger and heartbreak for the citizens of the town as well as the viewer. The sequence is anchored by the acting; Andy is horrifying and heartbreaking in equal measure in his turn on the screen.
Over the course of its 105 minute runtime, The Mental State chronicles how alt-right and conservative rhetoric can ensnare young white males and turn them from seemingly ordinary teenagers into violent men, taking out their frustration and anger on the larger world. With recent national events, including the shootings in Texas, New York and Oklahoma, the premiere of this film is particularly prescient and necessary. The message of this haunting film is a critical one that we must apply to our lives now in the hopes to end a cycle of heinous, pointless violence. Don’t miss The Mental State which is screening at the 2022 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 10 online for 24 hours and in-person at 7PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ.
To buy tickets to see The Mental State click here.
The 27th annual Festival will be taking place on select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through June 12. The Festival will be a hybrid one as we will be presenting it online as well as doing select in person screenings at Rutgers University. All the films will be available virtually via Video on Demand for 24 hours on their show date. Each ticket or Festival Pass purchased is good for both the virtual and the in person screenings. The in person screenings will be held in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ beginning at either 5PM or 7PM on their show date. Tickets: $15.
For more info go here: https://2022newjerseyinternationalfilmfestival.eventive.org/