How Joe And Christian Massa Are Using Film To Fight Mental Illness

Through a must-watch, untraditional film by the Massa brothers

Ryan Fan
Published in
4 min readApr 23, 2020

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Photo by Christian Massa

It is a silent film without any dialogue, only music. It starts with statistics about suicide. A man goes through a seemingly insurmountable amount of challenges that lead him to see a dark-cloaked figure who reminds him of death and suicide.

The film starts with the man waking up to his alarm, eating breakfast in the fridge. The man closes his fridge and sees a dark figure, handing him a lethal amount of pills. He is later frustrated about a bill that needs to be paid. He sees the figure again. On a run through the suburbs and close to the train tracks, he sees the figure on the train tracks.

The figure is meant to be temptation towards death, and the protagonist sees the person over and over again. In one hallucination, the character is holding a noose. The protagonist receives notice that he is laid off from work. He goes to the store, grabs a bottle of water, and in the pits of despair, hands the bottle to the cashier, only to see the hooded figure of death again. The man is handing him his change, and still, he sees the pills.

With his whole life falling apart, the protagonist then goes through a breakup. He sits on the couch and the hooded figure is behind him, tempting him to die, handing him a pistol. The protagonist is then talking to his father, and the father is comforting him. Both men are crying. It’s unstated what the conversation is about, but we can assume it’s about the protagonist’s emotional state and series of tragic life events.

He starts to see a therapist. In a checklist of things that he can do to improve his mental health, like exercise and hang out with friends, she has nothing to check off. While he’s talking, she offers him some tissues. She shows him a video of boxing, to which he smiles and the two proceed optimistically. He goes to interview for a job. The manager looks through his resume and is impressed.

He starts to box again. The hooded figure appears less and recedes. He works out more and more, working off his rage and pain. The figure recedes more. The manager calls him back — by the expression on his face, he has a new job. The figure recedes…

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Ryan Fan
Invisible Illness

Believer, Baltimore City IEP Chair, and 2:39 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire.” Support me by becoming a Medium member: https://bit.ly/39Cybb8