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#HotDocs21 Review: Any Given Day

April 29, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

Directed by Margaret Byrne, a filmmaker who herself is living with mental illness, Any Given Day is a candid portrait of people struggling to navigate the mental health system. Filmed over several years, Byrne follows three subjects who are involved in a probation program run by Chicago’s Cook County Mental Health Court.

There’s Dimitar, a man with bipolar who moves back in with his mother but is in and out of the hospital as his manias take hold; Daniel, who has schizophrenia and is in the process of moving into his own apartment; and Angela, who is trying to get her son back after an extended hospital stay. All of them struggle with substance abuse issues, and are in and out of the court system.

Byrne becomes friends with her three subjects, with the messages they send to each other appearing onscreen to help flesh out the narrative, which takes a dramatic turn when the filmmaker herself starts experiencing mental health struggles during the shoot. The film is uncomfortable to watch at times as the camera captures mental health episodes, but this is all done with the consent of the participants, and when one of the subjects asks Byrne to stop filming for a while, she respects their wishes.

Byrne’s approach is one of compassion and respect. Despite a somewhat distracting and at times overbearing musical score, the stories here are compelling and sensitively told. It’s the first-person perspective from someone living with mental illness that makes Any Given Day feel unique in the sea of documentaries made on the subject, and it offers an engaging glimpse into the experience of living with mental illness and addiction.

Any Given Day is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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