The Prison Within

You’ll never look at apples the same way

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

God Knows Where I Am
RPL Film Theatre

May 18–21

I never expected having to review God Knows Where I Am. I saw it at the 2016 edition of HotDocs and thought it had very little commercial viability, even though it’s excellent.

The thing about this documentary is that it’s relentlessly depressing. It has to be among the most disheartening movies I have ever seen. It’s not hyperbole: it’s a film that a year after watching it still haunts me. God Knows Where I Am is also relatable: it only takes a few bouts of bad luck to end up in the same position as the main subject.

The film recreates the last four months in the life of Linda Bishop. Once a scholar and pillar of her community, Linda’s life was ravaged by schizophrenia and creeping loneliness. Discharged from a mental hospital, Linda finds shelter in a semi-abandoned home in the New Hampshire countryside. She has enough presence of mind to keep a diary and collect apples while awaiting the arrival of her beau. Winter, however, waits for no one.

Linda’s diaries reveal an intelligent, witty woman imprisoned by paranoia and delusions (Lori Singer of Footloose fame does an extraordinary job giving the subject a voice). As the apples begin to rot and the house gets cold, the tale becomes dire.

God Knows Where I Am combines Linda’s account with testimonies of clueless neighbors —unaware of the starving squatter next door — and her sister, furious at the hospital who let her walk out without notifying her family. While the falling-through-the-cracks narrative is a strong one, the choice of going with Linda’s journey in her own words is what makes this documentary so unique.

Well that, and how grim it is. ❧

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