Silver Linings Playbook Review: A Fairly Realistic Portrayal of Mental Health Challenges, and the Pursuit of Love and Wellness

Megan McLaren, BC Mental Health & Addiction Services Practicum Graduate Student on May 23, 2013

I find that most films that tackle disability or mental illness are Oscar shoe-ins.  This film was quite a nice break from your run-of-the-mill mental illness portrayal.  As a trio of counselling students, the colleagues that accompanied me and I all agreed that a positive film that encourages the use of proactive hobbies, physical health and disclosure as means to wellness was a breath of fresh air.  As we pursue careers as talkies, I found it socially responsible for this film to offer wellness alternatives. David O. Russell, however, is no stranger to bringing these issues to light as we can remember from his work in The Fighter (2010).

This film features Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man recently released from a mental health facility to live at home with his parents, (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver), following serving time for a plea bargain after the assault of his wife's lover.  Determined to fight for his wife back, Pat took on a new mantra of searching for silver linings in order to persevere and conquer his challenges.  He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the sister of a mutual friend he shares with his wife, and the two develop a friendship and alliance against their struggles.  When the two agree to help each other achieve their goals, the story blossoms into a friendship story, a love story and a story of triumph.

One criticism of the film is that the authenticity of the portrayal of mental health challenges dissipates over the span of the film.  In the beginning of the film, both Pat and Tiffany are struggling with mental health challenges that appear to be quite disruptive in their lives.  Over what seems like a short length of time, the characters are virtually cured of their challenges, a choice which makes the film end up placing less emphasis on mental health and more emphasis on the romance and the more Blockbuster features of the film. While one may argue that this is an example of character development and the pursuit of wellness working out, it can seem a tad unrealistic, especially with Tiffany being a young widow and Pat suffering from manic-depressive disorder.  However, it is important to remember that this film’s message is not held in the length of recovery, but rather, the means.  

Matthew Quick's (Silver Linings Playbook novelist) inclusion of a father who struggles with mental illness as well was another feature that has psychologists taking their hats off.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for an easy-watching self-care night.  I also encourage viewers to think critically about how this film portrays wellness and the characters’ pursuit of it.  Though this film may not be entirely realistic in the speed of recovery for our main characters, the message of there being several ways to achieve wellness is heard loud and clear!


Still a good and humorous look at mental health and I like the way it is showing the parental mental health!

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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.