Hot Docs 2021: “Any Given Day”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Mental illness can be a serious condition that medicines may find hard to control. It can slow down the symptoms but may not provide cure nor long term relief to the patient. It creates an imaginary space that makes one believe one is in a safe zone. However, how safe is it? Will it help someone with mental illness to overcome a heartbreaking situation?

We most definitely need more films like “Any Given Day” that provides compassion, empathy and an in-depth portrayal of mental illness and what it does to an individual. Director Margaret Byrne, who suffers from depression, befriends Angela, Dimitar and Daniel, participants in a mental health court probation. As she follows their daily life, she decides to capture her struggle with depression too, through which she manages to find a path to solid ground. However, as you watch her, or her three documentary subjects, you can tell one of them can give up any given day. But will they? And if yes, where will they end up this time?

“Any Given Day” offers an absolutely touching story that will help you revisit your own opinion about mental illness. Not only that – it will paint a whole different image of people some of us would reject from letting them into society due to the fear of their unpredictableness. Thus, the open creates a path for redemption not only for its protagonist but the audience too. When we meet Dimitar, we are scared for him. We know he can be violent at times. His mother, who loves him dearly, does everything in her power to provide the best care for her son, who once spent one minute trying to break the neck of the woman who gave him life.

Angela is a single mother of four who tries to get back her son, taken by the system that’s meant to give her support. She understands that the battle won’t be equal and she must comply. But the compliance, in her case, is quite simple – she must learn to fight her demons and keep them locked somewhere inside, as she tries to win custody over her son. Daniel’s story is even more heartbreaking. Once a talented man with a dream to become a shoe designer, he was locked in a mental health facility for two years. After being released, he wants to prove he can do better. But can he, or Dimitar or Angela? Only time can tell. But as you watch them, you know for certain – they will show their fist to misfortune and give their best shot to regain control over their lives.

That said, the filmmaker Margaret Byrne makes an excellent statement through her film that won’t leave anyone indifferent. Mental illness is a crucial problem and must not be overlooked or ignored or even judged by people. It’s something that may strike anyone at any stage of life. However, only strong determination, support and willingness to move forward can help defeat the obstacles and leave them behind. It might be easier for me to say than for someone who experiences this. But compassion is the most important thing we can provide to anybody who needs it, especially those who feel abandoned, forgotten or ignored. For that, we always must look behind, look for someone who needs a friendly smile, and engage, if necessary – because what may be irrelevant for us is supremely important to someone else.

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