In the end, any documentary on mental health is essentially a search of layers of pain. Whether it is an inherently exploitative act is questionable and should always be debated, before embarking on manufacturing or monitoring it. After that, the program should be judged on how carefully and respectfully – or lets the subject discover – their layers and how well it resists the temptation to advance the narrative, faster or further than the subject at its center seems satisfied. By those standards, what’s Horizon’s question with Tony Slattery? (BBC Two) was a beacon for the genre.
Like most of us who reached the age of majority in the late 80s and early 90s, I remember Slattery the most for her charm, wit, improvisational talent and pretty playful face on the hit of Channel 4, Whose Line Is It Anyway? For a while, he was everywhere – exhibit debates, commercials, awards, and so on – and seemed to be having a good time. Behind the scenes, however, the wheels started to come off and a few years later, he withdrew from the public eye in a heap of drinks, drugs and depression, where he remained, more or less, for the past 25 years. He is no longer taking drugs but he is still drinking too much and cannot balance.
Now, at the age of 60, he has started to reappear, with a tour talking about his mental health. Although it is apparently a matter of discovering whether his suspicions that he suffers from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, maliciously pulsating in general, there is the question of the abuse he suffered in his childhood, which he recently talked about in an interview with this newspaper.
The hour therefore becomes an examination of the interaction of influences, causes and effects, of what – really – makes us. Does drink and drugs cause or worsen Slattery’s depression, or has he – has he – turned to them because of this? Is it genetically predisposed to depression or addiction? Are they both a response to the terrible trauma, explicitly stated in the last quarter of the film (“As bad as that?” Said his doctor quietly)? Does he have an identifiable and classifiable mental disorder? And if so, was it caused or exacerbated by his experiences? How do you tease all these things apart when they have become so deeply intertwined over the decades? How do you determine which is chicken and which is egg, and which will be the most effective treatment?
As a study on the complexity of mental health issues, it is very well done, stating only the certainty that – as Slattery’s friend at university, Stephen Fry put it: “All the ways people treating pain if it is not diagnosed is dangerous. ” But it’s most touching as a portrait of the power of love. Mark Hutchinson has been Slattery’s partner for 32 years. He is honest and perceptive about the difficulties, the price to pay – and remains unwaveringly devoted. He occasionally takes a break from his brother and that’s it. You’d say they clearly love each other to death, if it wasn’t so clear that Hutchinson’s unwavering support was probably what kept Slattery in the world for so long.
And you can see why Mark likes it too. Authentic charm, warmth and deep softness – even on its larger screen – have always attracted and made Slattery such a success. It’s still there. He is thoughtful and articulate, although he sometimes stammers under stress – a possible legacy of suspected brain damage from a stroke he suffered some time ago. Anger, when it comes, focuses entirely on the architect of his childhood suffering, and he is harder on himself than the priest. Throughout the program, he worries that dwelling on the possible causes of his drinking and mood swings is “self-indulgence” and that he should “ignore any baggage According to his age. The psychiatrist, too, kindly made him understand that this was a manifestation of the guilt that an abuser induced in a child. “Oh,” said Tony after a moment. “It has never been presented to me like this before. “
We leave him – and Mark – in a slightly better position (Tony cut back on alcohol, but not stopped) with a long way to go, but maybe a few seeds planted that could still bloom in time.