Written and directed by Andy Cruz, ‘The Other Mind’ is a drama short that stars Jamal LLoyd Johnson, Alexis Santiago and Sharon Gardner. The film takes us into the life of Andrew (Jamal L J) as he prepares to propose to his girlfriend. But Andrew (Jamal L J) is hiding a terrible secret; he has severe OCD and this condition starts to wreak havoc on his life and his relationship. Things soon take a turn for the worse and Andrew (Jamal L J) is forced to come to terms with a terrible reality when his girlfriend is found murdered. Did he really do it or is it just his fears making him think he did?
There is simply no other way to describe it; The Other Mind is a fantastic film that does its subject matter justice. OCD is extremely hard to get right and Hollywood often approaches it from a very superficial perspective, getting it very very wrong in the process. However, the way Cruz has approached this is not only commendable, it is also very accurate to the condition felt by those affected by OCD.
Visually and tonally, The Other Mind knocks it out of the park. The main character Andrew has sudden visions of violence and these visions are so real that Andrew is forced to leave whatever he is doing and writhe and cry in agony. Like an unkillable demon lurking within, these horrific imagery can make themselves known at any given instant. Since these visions are so real, Andrew cannot discern reality from fantasy at all. Not only is Andrew at the mercy of this, he has no way to stop it either. Slowly, the images begin to mess with his reality and that is where Andrew’s whole world falls apart.
One of the most powerful shorts made in recent memory that deals with the obsessive compulsive disorder, ‘The Other Mind’ accurately captures the enduring trauma of living with such a disorder. Showcasing the protagonist totally at the mercy of the disorder, the film is a testament to both the power that OCD holds over individuals and the incredible perseverance of the people dealing with it. As it accurately paints the ironclad grip of the disorder over the individual, the film does not falter in highlighting the extreme perseverance of the individual afflicted by the disorder.
Undoubtedly the strongest suit of the film is the acting by its lead, Jamal LLoyd Johnson. The main character in this film who is simultaneously a victim and possibly a killer, he commits to the role of an OCD afflicted man without fail as he weaves a complex portrayal of a tormented and tortured soul that is a testament to his fantastic method acting. Through his emotional turn, he makes the audience feel each particular moment of his painful life as we are strapped into a roller coaster that takes us on an odyssey of shocking violence. His performance showcases some of the very best acting so far this year and will have no problem being nominated for a multitude of awards later in the fall.
Alexis Santiago plays Jamal’s girlfriend. Although is not given a lot to play with, she is fantastic in her own right. Being the emotional core of the film, Santiago is both memorable and sweet. Cruz carefully curates the film so the audience is directly thrusted into Jamal’s nightmare, allowing them to feel the sudden nightmares that plague his mind. In addition to being a fantastic director, Cruz is also a potent screenwriter. The screenplay is powerful, perfectly balancing characters and drama. It incorporates the twists in the story pretty well too and the result is that the performances that bring the screenplay to life end up elevating the entire film.
Both the direction and the pacing deserve accolades. Cruz packs so much drama into the 14 minute short that it feels like a whole feature. Jamal is transported from one nightmare to the next and his relationship goes through so many ups and downs that it has to believe that we are watching a 14 minute short. The narrative pacing is on point and nowhere does the film get throttled by tedious exposition.
Equally impressive is the cinematography (Shaw Fisher) that not only perfectly encapsulates the constant tension and confusion in the life of the protagonist but also the various challenges that he has to face in the outside world. Skillfully using a combination of editing and camera gimmicks to transport Jamal in and out of his nightmares, the audience is provided an accurate look into the weird and neurotic life of people suffering from OCD. Using both the darkness and the bright colours to show a constant state of battle taking place within the protagonist’s mind, the film cleverly uses the visual medium to complement its narrative. On an equal note, it is the fantastic sound design of the film that recreates the terrifying mental reality of the protagonist, allowing us to empathise with the character in a way that hits right at our hearts.
A fantastic insight into the world of people with OCD, The Other Mind is everything a film aficionado could ask for. It takes a niche topic and goes deep into it, presenting a story that is moving, interesting and powerful. The direction is fantastic, the acting sublime and it all comes together in a cliffhanger that will lead to Part 2 of the story. Andy Cruz has made a poignant film, one that not only succeeds in more ways than one but moves the audience into understanding the complex and terrifying world of OCD.