A desperate desire to see one of the most talked about films of this year, saw me patiently wait until my usual weekly cinephile haunt Chapter beamed it up on the big screen.
The film which has been criticised and praised in equal measure was, for me, rather painful to watch.
It was also, one of the most raw, real, powerful and topical movies I have seen for years.
It tells the story of Arthur Fleck, blazingly and brilliantly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix.
Forever alone in a crowd, and struggling with his mental health, the failed comedian seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City.
Arthur wears two masks ‑ the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him.
Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, he begins a predictable decline, until one day he just snaps.
And my God, how much did I both emphasise, and sympathise, with Arthur Fleck.
The constant daily struggle to just survive with all the odds stacked against you, the struggle to just keep it altogether, and the optimism that the dream come true is just around the corner.
How much did I feel every physical and metaphorical kick in the teeth he received from an uncaring society who don’t give an absolute damn about people just like him.
Add in the battle with mental health, a childhood of abuse, the removal of any sort of support, and a complete lack of human kindness – and his decline is both uncomfortable and inevitable.
I’m not an Arthur Fleck but I get it. I know many who could be, and I also know there’s many out there in our harsh society who feel his pain.
I also totally realise that not all mental health breakdown ends in violence, murder and mayhem.
But this is a very grim and gritty portrayal of how our world treats anyone who is different.
I would, controversially perhaps, also argue that Fleck is not a born monster but shaped into one by many years of trauma, neglect, abuse.
Phoenix’s portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis is the best I’ve ever seen. I loved the visual references to the original Marvel story, and of course, the parallels with one of my other all time favourite movies, Taxi Driver.
The 1976 psychological thriller, which was based on the theme of isolation, saw Robert De Niro play an ex-marine and Vietnam veteran.
Travis Bickle then becomes increasingly angry at the sordid society he drives around in every night – before he too snaps in spectacularly violent fashion.
How fabulous then that in Joker, De Niro plays Murray Franklin, the talk show host that Fleck takes to task on live TV before shooting point blank in the face.
My last thought on the film is, is it actually real or is it all in The Joker’s head. History sees him saying that he likes his back story to be ‘multiple choice’ so…
Maybe worth thinking about that, and also, whether true or a figment of the imagination, the film definitely spotlights the growing global mental health crisis that has been brewing for years.
This film is not an easy one to watch – absolutely everyone should go and see it!
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Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
One of Wales Arts Review 100 Women Writers of Wales, the dedicated community supporter, passionate arts lover, and award-winning queer activist, will keep you “informed, entertained and inspired.”
Mrs SVJ, Barry’s Boldest Blogger, can be contacted here.