I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was eighteen. I had never had a seizure in my life before one day I started having what I would come to learn were grand mal seizures. I have been on medication since then and have not had a seizure in years. It is a part of my life that I really do not think about. Taking my epilepsy medicine is just another thing I do during my daily routine.
Since then, I have always paid especially close attention when there is an epileptic character in a movie. It is not something that I feel movies need more of, but they are seen so seldom that it is noticeable when there is one. In honor of National Epilepsy Awareness Month here are the movies I feel do the best job of handling epilepsy.
I am a huge fan of Joy Division. A biopic about lead singer Ian Curtis was always going to be an easy sell for me. While the movie does cover much of what the pioneering band did, it is surprising in how deep it goes into Curtis’ battles with epilepsy. An emotional film with a great soundtrack, the movie does a great job of showing how scary and depressing it can be when you are epileptic.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Another film that shows the emotional toll epilepsy can have on people. No matter how successful they may be, sometimes people are embarrassed to tell others they have epilepsy. Dr. Ruth Levitt is part of a group of scientists tasked to investigate an extraterrestrial organism. Levitt sees her epilepsy as a weakness and simply decides to not tell the others.
Mean Streets (1973)
Martin Scorsese’s storied career began with this movie about a young man torn between his religion and his family. The main character’s love interest is a woman named Teresa. Since she is epileptic, Teresa is shunned by others. This is a genuine fear when people learn they have epilepsy. When I first learned I had epilepsy, there was always a fear of having a seizure in front of others. Not because I was worried about myself, but of what they would think of me.
The Exorcist (1973)
Epilepsy has a long ignominious history with horror and the unknown. Seizures have been tied to lycanthropy and witchcraft since the earliest times. So, it makes sense that when the doctors first diagnose Regan with temporal lobe epilepsy. The likely unintentional commentary on horror speaks about how epilepsy is portrayed in film in general. It is usually seen as something mystical or a sign of evil or madness.
A wacky class reunion turns into a favor for a stranger
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