The Year Between – Coming of Age & Coming to Terms with Bipolar Disorder

I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of this interview for the Director’s Club, it may be the most personally meaningful to me. The Year Between is a darkly humorous and heartfelt film about a college student who spends a semester living with her family and recovering after her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The film is very obviously set and filmed in the Chicagoland suburbs which was just another connection I had with it. Lead character Clemence is played by writer-director-star Alex Heller and is a semi-autobiographical depiction of her own experience spending a semester off school managing her bipolar disorder. The character she embodies reminds me a great deal of myself, both when I was younger and when I received my diagnosis. She’s brash and intense, having little control over her moods and low self-awareness of how her actions affect others—yet she’s also bitingly witty, creative, and sensitive, secretly hungry for affection. 

It’s quite an accomplishment that a talent as young as Alex Heller created a film that shows such self-awareness and perception of her past while balancing the tone between the comedy and the tragedy of coping with a serious mental health diagnosis, sometimes both at the same time. She also created a warm Midwestern family that acts as a foil by accepting her with open arms no matter how melodramatic she can be, including her long-suffering mother and father, played memorably by J. Smith-Cameron and Steve Buscemi. 

Of course my thanks again go to Jim Laczkowski for always believing in me and finding incredible opportunities to support me like landing this interview. I was very lucky to speak to Alex Heller about a topic so special to me and my identity and I hope to meet her at one of the Chicago screenings. I highly suggest that you check out the film when it plays at the Music Box Theater on March 30th, at Facets starting March 31st, or on VOD

 THE YEAR BETWEEN – About the Film (

The Year Between demonstrates that with a diagnosis of bipiolar disorder, the entire family is diagnosed, too—that is, they all must find ways to cope and understand.

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