The Crowded Room: A Disappointing Exploration of Mental Illness

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    The Crowded Room

    “The Crowded Room,” Apple TV’s latest limited series, attempts to delve into the complex world of mental illness, drawing inspiration from films like “A Beautiful Mind” and TV shows like “Euphoria.” However, despite its lofty ambitions, the series falls short in delivering a meaningful and authentic portrayal. In this review, we’ll explore the shortcomings of “The Crowded Room” and its missed opportunities to shed light on important social issues.

    Created by Akiva Goldsman, known for his work on acclaimed films such as “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Da Vinci Code,” the series loosely adapts Daniel Keyes’ nonfiction novel, “The Minds of Billy Milligan.” The story revolves around Danny Sullivan, played by Tom Holland, a traumatized teenager struggling with mental health issues. Living with his troubled family, Danny finds solace in his friendships with Johnny (Levon Hawke) and Mike (Sam Vartholomeos), but his life takes a dark turn when he becomes involved with his mysterious neighbor, Ariana (Sasha Lane).

    The series introduces Dr. Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried), a psychology professor tasked with understanding Danny’s mental state for his defense. Unfortunately, Goodwin’s character is marred by trite feminist tropes, undermining the potential for a nuanced exploration of mental illness. Seyfried’s performance shines amidst the limitations, displaying her talent through subtle expressions and emotive acting.

    One of the major issues with “The Crowded Room” is its disjointed storytelling and melodramatic staging. The series feels like it belongs to a different era, reminiscent of the early 2000s, which is unsurprising considering its origins in the 1990s. The unnecessary grandiosity and meandering plotlines hinder the narrative’s ability to engage and connect with the audience.

    Despite the flaws, Tom Holland delivers a commendable performance, showcasing his range as an actor. However, the project’s dark and heavy tone, similar to films like “Precious,” fails to break new ground or offer a fresh perspective on mental illness. The excessive darkness overshadows the occasional glimmers of hope, leaving the audience yearning for more honesty and realism.

    “The Crowded Room” attempts to shed light on societal failures, particularly in the context of the American criminal justice system and its treatment of the mentally ill. However, the series falls short in effectively portraying these issues, resorting to clichéd dialogue and unrealistic courtroom theatrics. Other TV shows like HBO’s “Barry” and FX’s “You’re the Worst” have successfully tackled similar themes with more concise and impactful storytelling.

    Deep down, “The Crowded Room” holds the potential for a universal story about the failures of our social safety net, the struggles faced by vulnerable groups, and the need for awareness and change. Unfortunately, the series fails to capitalize on this potential, offering a disjointed and shallow exploration of mental illness.