Tatiana Maslany caught the world’s attention ever since she began her multifaceted role as Sarah Manning and the numerous clones in “Orphan Black.”
The Emmy Award winner took on a a new role that stems far from sci-fi alongside Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey) in The Other Half. The film revolves around Nickie (Cullen), a mysterious, and seemingly apathetic drifter who carries a shroud of dark clouds wherever he lands. We soon find out that these clouds are from his past—and his quiet nature is only a cover up for his depression. The story follows Nickie as he meets Emily (Maslany) and falls into a tumultuous attempt at love and normalcy with looming grief and mental illness.
His life seems to be falling to bits piece by piece until he meets Emily, a vivacious, capricious girl. It’s not a secret that the unlikely pair end up smitten from day one, but with Nickie’s unspeakable past and anger issues, alongside Emily’s emotional instability—the two of them are like gun powder ignited by fire.
Yet, their story isn’t perfect. They remain on a path of emotional quicksand, their relationship constantly challenged and always a hairpin short of crumbling.
It may sound like the typical love story gone wrong, but writer and director, Joey Klein, adds layers to the The Other Half that opens up a conversation about dating with mental illness and bereavement.
Nickie often finds himself in a hallucinatory state traveling down a long hallway chasing after a young boy which turns out to be his younger brother who passed away. He hides his grief in meaningless partying and angry outbursts.
Emily, on the other hand, deals with problems brought on by herself, ones she can’t control. Emily suffers from bipolar disorder which Maslany explains she did much research on to accurately portray the character. And Maslany truly embodies the role—one telling scene shows Emily sans medication in a fit of hysteria bouncing up and down on the couch in handcuffs with tears and screams.
The “poorly assembled robot” battles her impulse control issues, her heightened sense of loneliness and insecurity, and her parents’ desires to shelter and control her path in life.
Yet, she constantly tries to break away from every factor keeping her sedated and is able to find that sense of bliss in her artwork but mostly in Nickie. Nickie, although in pain from his brothers death, provides a sense of stability for Emily.
But it goes deeper. Nickie doesn’t quite understand what Emily is going through which can be all too common for those dating someone while they deal with mental health issues. Although Nickie tries his best to support her, it becomes increasingly obvious that he does not know how. As he deals with his own emotions and grief. The two harbor barricades that keep them away from true happiness. Also, their inability to communicate and liberate themselves of their problems prevent them from completely falling into each other– their other half.
The film, however, falls short of pulling the nuances of each character’s life to the forefront. Nickie’s estranged father, Emily’s rickety relationship with her stepmother (only mentioned briefly at the dinner table) never fully develop but obviously mean a lot to their character development. As we follow Nickie through his hollow fabrications of his brother walking down a hallway, we almost want it to go further. We want him to touch his brother’s shoulder to receive a glimpse into his past. But we don’t get that chance, just as we don’t really get a chance to see exactly what happened to Emily’s mother who bore the same weight of mental illness.
By the end, there are more questions than answers. But where the story development falls short, Maslany and Cullen fill the gaps. The interaction between the characters feels authentic.
The Other Half is truly raw and gripping. It speaks on the tenuous strain of fighting for a relationship always meant to fail and provides the audiences with a glimpse at the struggle of loving and being loved when dealing with loss and mental illness.
The film is now playing.