Directed by Kirsty Robinson-Ward and written by actress April Kelley, how do you battle an invisible demon? How do you survive the war inside your own head? How do you tell your Dad (Philip Glenister) you’re fighting for 30? Facing the harsh reality of what it’s really like to live with bipolar disorder.
It’s uncommon for films and television to deal with bipolar disorder in a way that’s genuine, while the disorder itself is common, being diagnosed in around 1 in every 100 people. Just in Case attempts to fill that gap, to give a brief window into a harsh daily struggle. The interesting irony is that this film is not harsh at all, it cleverly translates that difficulty into a tone which is compassionate, honest and even to a certain degree, sweet. It doesn’t try to bombard you with the darkness to it but instead opens up a conversation on the experience both for the person with the disorder and for their family. It demonstrates a need for families to have hard conversations, to be able to have open communication and provide support. It very easily could have taken a brutal tact to explore its heavy subject but instead makes it accessible, while it’s almost impossible for anyone to adequately portray on screen exactly what goes on inside their head, this film finds a graceful way to come close.
Kirsty Robinson-Ward’s directorial style enhances April Kelley’s story, it brings a physicality to the struggle. It intensifies Rachel’s (Kelley) explanation of how she feels, giving a more complex exploration of her experience, on top of her emotion. The move between the different energies is impactful and gripping to watch. It’s a style which could be compared to how in recent years films like Sound of Metal or A Quiet Place smartly use sound to accentuate the experience of deaf people. Using every element at your disposal to create a well-rounded portrayal, which is what these filmmakers achieve. Robinson-Ward’s style also puts particular focus on the dialogue, especially in the latter moments, allowing you to be drawn in even further by the relationship between Rachel and her father.
Exploring this story required a close connection between its core actors, not only in playing father and daughter but in showing the special nature of their relationship. Any British person will tell you that your average family doesn’t have an open dialogue about emotions and feelings, so creating that genuinely is not as easy as it sounds but April Kelley and Philip Glenister do exactly that. Glenister is a British staple and here he gives more of what he’s known for, bringing a strength, sympathy and relatability. Kelley brings a determination, vulnerability and resilience; her performance also provides the talking point of the difference between being self-aware of your limitations and giving up. Rachel shows that she’s conscious enough of her struggle to know that it’s pushing her down a bad road, but that she’s not resigned to following it. It may not be the bright shiny version of hope that many are used to being portrayed in media but it’s an equally important distinction.
Just in Case is a sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful exploration of bipolar disorder. It touches upon the poignant nature of the issue while keeping an accessible, sympathetic style. There’s a definite tension added to give a more rounded view but at the same time it revolves around simply a conversation and the importance of a willingness to understand and provide patient support. Kelley and Glenister bring warmth and a charming connection to the table. It may be a heavy subject to tackle in just 14-minutes but this film manages to make a strong impression.