Review: Asylum

The title is a slightly misleading, when you hear the word asylum you automatically think of a big Victorian building with individual rooms etc but this is slightly different, more so a documentary following a group of mentally ill patients that live in the archway community in London that was set up by R.D Laing with his anti-psychiatry treatments as he felt that the usual psychiatry treatment could have done more damage than good.

The one thing that is kind of confusing at the start is that there is no hierarchy between the staff & patients, so you weren’t quite sure who was staff and who was a patient, but that soon changed as you were introduced to some of the patients in more depth.

Over the course of the film you get to meet the patients and see how they live, they are encouraged to help out with paying bills and food shopping etc, you could say it’s almost like a halfway house for patients, to see if they do need the routine & security of living like a “normal” person, they could decide that it wasn’t for them and maybe they did need the help of a mental health hospital, you saw the patients having fun, going out independently.

There was one patient, David who was a very clever man, however he didn’t always agree with what people said or did, when confronted he would get very angry, yet his therapist was patient with him and knew how to deal with David which was comforting as his therapist spoke to him like a person and asked David for his opinions as opposed to making them for him.

You saw one patient’s father come to visit, who commented that he had hired a girl to boost his son’s ego, and to make him feel like he has a purpose, and that perhaps “asylum” wasn’t so bad after all.

I do think how ever if it wasn’t for all the legalities etc that perhaps this could work now and perhaps a bit more organised to give patients the independence they need and that wanting to feel “normal” I say normal but what is normal? It is certainly a interesting documentary-film to watch, more so to see how things were different than going into a traditional asylum, that we know.

Asylum is part of the Acting Out Season, for more information see

Review by Geri Patterson

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