Directed by: Aaron Fisher
Premise: A bipolar student (Aaron Fisher) is suspended from college after he is mistaken for attempting suicide. He recruits a free spirited young woman (Ellen Toland) to star in a short film that will dramatize his side of the story.
What Works: Inside the Rain was written and directed by Aaron Fisher who also stars in the lead role as Ben, a young man who suffers from bipolar disorder as well a variety of other personality conditions. Fisher proves to be a competent filmmaker. Whenever directors cast themselves in the lead role, there is a temptation to glamourize their character. Fisher isn’t afraid to let his character be ridiculous and difficult. Inside the Rain is an impressive portrait of mental illness precisely because Fisher does not idealize his character or make the illness an excuse for antisocial behavior. Ben is sometimes a difficult guy to get along with and he fixates on desires or objectives without considering whether or not they are what he needs. The film is partly about Ben learning to make the distinction between wants and needs and that makes this a mature story. A lot of movies are about characters overcoming adversity and they usually take the protagonist’s desires for granted. Inside the Rain is about a character who learns that what he wants might not be what he needs. Everyone around Ben tells him that his plans are a bad idea and the film is about Ben learning to manage his expectations.
What Doesn’t: The maturity of Inside the Rain is offset by its juvenile regard for women. Early on, Ben meets Emma, a woman who is employed at a gentlemen’s club, and the two become friendly. Emma is played by Ellen Toland and the actress does a good job with the material. The problem is that her character is written as a manic pixie dream girl and nothing more. Emma is the object of Ben’s obsession and she exists solely as a means for his personal growth. The movie doesn’t have much regard for her and the relationship between Ben and Emma never feels authentic. The other women of the movie are treated in a similarly shallow way. Inside the Rain also has some unusual music choices. The songs are at odds with the tone of the movie but not in a way that is ironic. The music just clashes with what’s happening on screen.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Inside the Rain is an interesting character study and its portrait of mental illness is admirable but the film suffers from a retrograde regard for its female characters. Despite its flaws, this is a promising first feature from Aaron Fisher.
Episode: #805 (June 21, 2020)