Bridge to the Other Side seems like a standard COVID drama at first, but the part that really hooked me in is also the one that hooked the main character Maxine. A flyer seeking help for a mobile crisis response unit becomes the catalyst for Max’s recovery after the loss of her first responder husband. The flyer intrigued me as well, having only recently learned about mobile crisis response programs myself from research I had done for a paper about race, mental illness, and mass incarceration. The units, which pair first responders with social workers to respond to calls for mental health crises, aim to defuse and de-escalate mental health episodes and secure safety before the episodes become violent or result in arrests. There’s a natural tension there between the police instinct to curb immediate instability or potential violence and the social worker’s instinct to calm the situation and converse long enough to uncover root causes, and in the beginning, Max and her partner Jake run into that a bit.
The mental health calls in the film create little windows into their community. I told writer and director KT Curran she must have done a lot of research (she did) because some stories I read in my own research described encounters exactly like the one with a teenage boy in the throes of a schizophrenic episode brandishing a knife–who really just needed his medication. That is precisely the kind of situation that could have ended in jail or violence without a mobile crisis response which instead routed him to psychiatric care. Then there’s the situation of the affluent family suffering a crisis which is heartbreaking in its own way because a mother doesn’t want to acknowledge her daughter’s cutting and suicidal ideation because it’s embarrassing to her.
COVID touches on a lot of aspects in the film, from COVID losses to the grief and trauma those losses entail to increased collective mental health issues overall. The film shows that first responders wrestle with their own demons, from addiction to a family history of mental illness to their own PTSD. It’s kind of amazing how many different facets of mental health Bridge to the Other Side touches upon without feeling cluttered or bloated. In our interview KT Curran said looking at so many societal issues—from climate change to homelessness to political polarity—she realized that underpinning and coloring all of them was our mental health.
KT’s succinct description of the film, though, is the best: “A woman joins a mobile crisis response team hoping to save her life, if the job doesn’t kill her first.” In the end, it is kind of a police drama genre film, and Max is the main character. It’s a damn good one, though.
You still have time to catch Bridge to the Other Side in the virtual festival: https://mentalfilmness2022.eventive.org/welcome
Plus check out an interview with the writer and director KT Curran. As you might expect she’s a talker and I loved that!