The Me You Can't See Review: Prince Harry & Oprah Winfrey's documentary excels in destigmatising mental health
In The Me You Can't See, Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey's pursuit to destigmatise mental health results in a moving documentary, which feels like a step-by-step therapy session. Read Pinkvilla's full review below.
*SPOILERS ALERT* The stigma behind mental health is unfortunately prevalent across the globe on a universal level as it doesn't seek permission to engulf one's life based on gender, colour, social status, etc. Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey, who have had their own battles with mental health, collaborated to shed light on the matters of the mind in their AppleTV+ documentary, The Me You Can't See.
With three episodes made available to me before The Me You Can't See dropped today, i.e. May 21, I was immediately immersed into the real-life stories, which segway one after the other in breaks. Each episode feels like a step-by-step therapy session (The Me You Can't See Ep 1 is titled Say It Out Loud, Ep 2 is titled Asking for Help, Ep 3 is titled Finding What Works, etc.) as celebrities and common folk share their no holds barred tryst with mental health. Harry, in particular, is someone's life millions have been deeply invested in and through the process of talking about how he sought therapy, The Duke of Sussex delves into his controversial decision to step back from the royal family.
It's a decision that the public like this writer was obviously shocked by. With old footage of Princess Diana being hounded by paparazzi, which ultimately led to her untimely death, Harry paralleled that, with history repeating itself, to how Meghan has had to suffer at the hands of media and public scrutiny, especially for her skin colour. In Ep 3, we see Harry have an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) session with Sanja Oakley, psychotherapist and EMDR consultant, where he recounts how travelling to the UK on a plane has always driven him to major anxiety. Through Harry's deep dive into mental health, the viewers are made aware of how therapy isn't as bad as people sought it out to be.
In a similar approach, the late great Robin Williams' son Zak Williams also bared his soul when it came to his hereditary battle with depression, anxiety and addiction, something which took his own dad's life. With both Harry and Zak, we see how they're hell-bent on breaking the parental cycles of their fathers when it comes to raising their own children. In Harry's case, it's his and Meghan's two-year-old son Archie Harrison.
On the other hand, Oprah delved into her past battles when she was taken away from her grandmother and forced to live with her mother, who didn't care for her. Through Oprah, we meet her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls' students, who taught her the eccentricities of mental health which then digs deep into illnesses like PTSD and schizophrenia. Through Winfrey, we learn how the ones who have to cohabitate with people struggling with mental illness can feel and be misguided before being made to understand the gravity.
Along with Harry and Oprah, The Me You Can't See looks into the lives of prominent personalities like Lady Gaga, flyweight boxer Virginia 'Ginny' Fuchs, DeMar DeRozan of NBA's San Antonio Spurs as well as the gut-wrenching story of Syrian refugee Fawzi. Gaga, whose magnanimous personality is the perfect mask, shares her battles with sexual abuse and how she's coping with it one day at a time, which in itself is a struggle. With the triggering nature of The Me You Can't See Me, the singer is brutally honest about just how tumultuous her journey is detailing how she was raped by a producer, impregnated and left to her own devices as well as her inner fight with self-harming.
With Ginny, who battles OCD; besides her conversation about it, the visual depiction of her misery is hauntingly captured on camera as she goes through toothbrushes after toothbrushes, not satisfied by the minutest of details with the simple act of brushing her teeth. It can be very difficult to visually understand mental health issues as there isn't a visible physical impact on the body and hence, the intensity of Ginny's story hits you hard.
With DeMar, whose "This depression get the best of me..." tweet made him a surprising advocate of mental health and brought a significant change to the NBA sees how the basketball player seeks solace through therapy with the empathetic Dr. Corey Yeager, Detroit Pistons' team psychotherapist, while even dealing with loss, like his idol Kobe Bryant, who along with his daughter Gianna Bryant tragically passed away in a plane crash last year.
ALSO READ: Prince Harry says Princes Charles passed on 'pain & suffering'; Wants to 'break the cycle' within royal family
Another heartbreaking story is of Syrian refugee Fawzi, a young kid who swam his way to Greece and lives with the trauma of his brother dying in a bombing. As vibrant as Fawzi's infectious smile is, to witness his own battles with mental health and the trauma-induced as a refugee is a lethal combination with the story of Dr. Essam Daod, child psychiatrist, and wife Maria, both co-founders of Humanity Crew, who have dedicated their lives to helping children like Fawzi. After an intense therapy session with Fawzi, we see Essam breaking down not being able to hide his emotions as conventionally expected of doctors. Even Ginny's therapist Dr. Angela Smith being unable to contain her emotions during her interview about the athlete is a testament that with these sequences, it's highlighted that the myth of doctors being superheroes is wrong, they're humans with feelings like all of us. With mental health as the central focus, The Me You Can't See also sheds subtle light on current issues pertaining to the African American community, refugees, etc.
Along with the personable stories, we get factual information from renowned professionals, who explain the intricacies of each illness or treatment in layman's language, to make one understand the severity of mental health side-effects. Instead of dedicating one episode to each personality, the Rubic's Cube treatment in terms of direction and editing, adhering to the step-by-step lessons is tactful in making one realise just how important it is to destigmatise mental health.
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