Poppy Shakespeare (2008)

In based on novel, Recommendation, Review on 10/04/2012 at 4:42 pm

Ever been afraid you’d accidentally get locked into a mental institution? After this you might.

Poppy Shakespeare tells the story of two young women: Poppy (Naomie Harris) and N (Anna Maxwell Martin). N has been in the loony bin for thirteen years and she’s terrified to be declared sane, so she does everything in her power to remain mad. Poppy is a beautiful independent young mum who just lost her job. A freak administrative accident sends the perfectly sane and quite glamorous Poppy into the world of the dribbling insane. In order to prove her sanity, she will first need to get ‘mad money’, for which she will have to be proven mentally ill first.

This story, based on the Clare Allan novel, necessarily presupposes a daunting reality in which there really is no escape from the system. Although this seems almost dystopian, in this case it isn’t at al far fetched. Poppy’s despair is terribly realistic, and the way N’s reality, which is very far away from hers, is forced upon her only makes her experience more intense.

For N everything changes when Poppy comes into her life. As they develop an awkward but real sort of friendship, N struggles between doing everything to keep Poppy by her side (in the mental institution) and helping her to get out. It takes her too long to see when Poppy has stopped pretending to be mad, to see that her life is actually falling to pieces and she can’t cope.

Poppy Shakespeare is a times very funny, but it’s essentially a deeply tragic story. It’s a beautiful one too and there is no other way of telling it, so no comments there. What probably makes it powerful is that absolutely any viewer can relate to Poppy, and this could happen in almost any country, regardless of regime, or your age, race or sex.

The quite exceptional Anna Maxwell Martin won a BAFTA for her part as N in this Channel 4 drama.



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