Ashley Judd and 'Helen' hit DVD
In Helen, Ashley Judd plays the title character, who is a mother and a music professor at the local college. Shortly after Helen’s husband and daughter throw her a surprise birthday party, Helen slips into a deep state of depression. Whether it is growing old or a dissatisfaction with her job that bothers her, we aren’t told. Rather, we are forced to ponder Helen’s mental angst as she slowly withdraws from her life and loses the ability to find solace in former pleasures.
Primarily through the strength of Judd’s performance, Helen succeeds in being one of the better portrayals of mental illness on film. The film demonstrates a deep understanding of the difficulty of treating depression, and Helen’s relationship with a fellow patient, played by Canadian actress Lauren Lee Smith, shows the tragic consequences of allowing the illness to go untreated. Judd’s devastating performance is complemented by the dark photography of the film, and as a result, the melancholy within Helen is infectious. Watching the film is a difficult and emotionally draining experience; but, thanks to Judd, it's well worth the effort.
Helen's also worth checking out for being a Canadian-German co-production, directed by Sandra Nettlebeck (Mostly Martha). This Vancouver-shot drama premieres on DVD on Tuesday July 27th at Rogersvideo, Blockbuster, and HMV. Amazon.ca notes the release date for Helen as August 10th, so the film may not be readily available at all retailers.