Benjamin Rouse’s “Royal Blood” uses the idea of class to explore mental illness. On two ends of the spectrum are a rich, spoiled former beauty queen (Shannon Currie as Brandy Foley) plagued by narcissism and neuroticism, and a mentally ill homeless woman who envisions herself as royalty and calls herself only “The Queen” (Peggy Mahon). Caught between the two of them is the down-to-earth, seemingly more balanced Tiffany (Maarika Pinkney), Brandy’s daughter.
It’s an interesting approach to feature two characters who come from opposite ends of the financial spectrum who both have the same delusion—that they have royal blood. For some reason Tiffany seems to empathize more with The Queen. Is it because she’s just grown tired of her mother asking ten questions about the sea scallops in a restaurant? Or because of the shopping cart of “treasures” The Queen pushes around? The fact that The Queen is obviously destitute, yet proud of herself and what she has, whereas Brandy is entitled but never happy? Is royal blood defined by wealth, or beauty, or character, or something else?
This film raises all these questions but I think, most importantly, shows how certain kinds of mental illness are “acceptable” in society, and certain kinds are not. Both women are clearly equally matched in terms of mental illness. But people like Brandy masquerade around the world every day in fancy clubs and restaurants, receiving the best possible service. And people like The Queen prompt people to look the other way when she wanders into their space telling them she hopes they enjoy their luncheon.
“Royal Blood” screened in the first shorts block on 10/13/19, from 3:00 to 4:20 p.m.