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Anxious Nation: Film Review

Anxious Nation is a powerful documentary that sheds light on why so many young people are fighting silent battles with their mental health.

Anxious Nation refers to studies that suggest approximately 30% of all adults will find themselves faced with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, and yet the concept of ‘mental health’ is still something that many people approach with hesitancy and reluctance. As more and more young people have begun to open up about their experiences with anxiety disorders, the very concept has become something that most people avoid discussing for fear of treading on paths that are deemed too ‘sensitive’ to ever explore in depth – and that’s exactly why films like Anxious Nation are so necessary for a world that’s so scared to talk about mental health in this level of depth.

Co-director Laura Morton offers an illuminating insight into Anxious Nation’s key themes and intentions during the film’s moving introduction, which explores her daughter’s own battle with anxiety and comments on how that’s affected them as a family. It’s direct, to-the-point, and doesn’t waste any time telling the audience what they already know: that anxiety is an incredibly common disorder which manifests itself in various ways.

Instead of doing this, the documentary speaks with several young adults whose first hand accounts of anxiety open doorways for experts and psychologists to offer their opinion on the subject whilst providing the science and statistics to back themselves up. Given the widely varied nature of anxiety disorders, all of these young people have suffered in different ways – and this gives Anxious Nation the opportunity to explore countless other topics that contribute towards the world’s mental health crisis, including social media and gender identity.

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Anxious Nation

While Anxious Nation doesn’t quite pack the punch that’s necessary to drive these ideas home, and it’s a little too clinical to really draw the audience in, the documentary’s biggest strength is the presence of first-hand sufferers to explain exactly what anxiety is, and how it can be helped. The directors focus closely on the idea of anxiety being destructive within family units, and interviews with these young people’s parents help illustrate how this can be prevented from the beginning. Combined with the expert advice from several therapists and psychologists, Anxious Nation manages to provide a very authoritative counsel that will undoubtedly prove helpful to countless families across the world. It doesn’t take up the impossible task of curing anxiety disorders, but its empathetic position and direct advice is crucial to battling this crisis.

The actual structure of the documentary can be somewhat distanced and repetitive at times, and while the emotional interviews are definitely useful in getting the film’s powerful message across, Anxious Nation relies too heavily on the experiences of others and fails to really craft an opinion of its own. It’s far more educational that it is engaging, and despite there definitely being a place for purely educational documentaries, this would be much more effective if it really built up to those emotional beats and allowed the audience to feel them, rather than just hear them. There are so many great ideas in Anxious Nation, but it can be hard to find them sometimes behind a constant barrage of statistics and interviews with new faces.

Anxious Nation aims to explain why young people are finding themselves increasingly more inflicted by mental illness, and because of this specific perspective, it’s those young people that really deserve the spotlight. They’re the ones who can offer their insight into how today’s complicated world is affecting their mental wellbeing, and whenever the parents or experts weigh in on their experiences, the perspective of Anxious Nation seem misguided. There’s definitely a place to hear from these people, but it often distracts from the real subjects of this investigation. 

It’s like there are two or three different documentaries within Anxious Nation, and while they all deal with the same things, they don’t always blend perfectly together. There’s the scientific approach with its statistics and data, the social aspect with its exploration of family dynamics, and the more personal perspective from the young people who’ve been battling these disorders their entire lives. Anxious Nation is a good documentary that’s filled with crucial ideas and incredible insights that, unfortunately, often feel like they’re not being explored to their full potential.

Anxious Nation will kick off Mental Health Awareness Month with a global livestream rally/premiere event on May 3, 2023 (visit Anxious Nation‘s official site for more information). The film will then open in US theaters and online on May 5, 2023.

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