Film Review: The Bridge

Suicide is an incredibly difficult subject to broach in a sensitive manner.  Nevertheless, it must be discussed as it has such a devastating impact on families and wider society.

Those who take their own lives do so for a multitude of reasons.  Often, underlying mental health issues are the catalyst that tips an individual over the edge; this is particularly true for sufferers of Bipolar Affective Disorder, a condition which has an inordinately high suicide rate attached to it.

That is why this film, although exceedingly uncomfortable to watch, is so important.

The Bridge is a 2006 documentary made by the filmmaker Eric Steel.  Inspired by the article written by Tad Friend entitled ‘Jumpers’ and published in The New Yorker in 2003, The Bridge is composed of the results of an entire years filming of the Golden Gate Bridge, allegedly the most popular suicide destination in the world.  During 2004, Steel captured a number of suicides on film (and prevented several others) and subsequently interviewed the family and friends of some of those who had ended their lives by jumping off the iconic bridge.

To see the effects of suicide played out on family and friends again and again as this film unfolds is painful.  To see one talented and dearly loved individual after another being in so much distress that they can see no other way out, is deeply shocking and frustrating.

But shocking as it may be, the film depicts a reality that we ignore at our peril.

In The Bridge, one watches people who are suffering enormously in the midst of a society that barely pays them any attention whatsoever; as they walk across the bridge, contemplating their future and wrestling with nihilistic desires, the world continues going about its daily business – tourists walk past and a multitude of vehicles stream by, seemingly oblivious to the suffering amongst them.  But thankfully that is not always the case – there are examples in the film of people stepping in and literally saving the life of someone who is a hair’s-breadth away from jumping to an almost certain death.

Apparently, 98% of those who jump from the bridge die.  Steel interviews one of the rare survivors, Kevin Hines, a young man with Bipolar Affective Disorder. Kevin and his father talk frankly about the mania and depression that characterised Kevin’s life in the run-up to his 2004 suicide attempt and the struggles he has encountered since. Kevin’s father describes the medication and lifestyle regime that keeps Kevin well, and the difficulties attendant with that; Kevin, acknowledging these issues, at one point tellingly says ‘I just want to be normal again……but I know I never will’.

This film, and the images contained therein, are haunting.  Mental illness, in all of its forms, is a serious issue and suicide is a reality for a significant percentage of sufferers.  That is why this film should be watched and the lessons learned from it acted upon. We all have a duty to look out for others and to listen actively for signs of suicidal ideation and despair.  That much is clear form the real life stories featured in The Bridge – a shocking yet very necessary film.

You can watch the film trailer by visiting the website:

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