(via directorisin.blogspot.com)

Manic (2001) is a gritty film, centered around the juvenile ward of a mental institution and filmed with a handheld camera.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Lyle, one of the ward’s patients who is prone to very violent outbursts. Surrounding him are patients with equally serious issues, including self-harming Tracy (Zooey Deschanel) and bipolar Chad (Michael Bacall). Don Cheadle is Dr. Monroe, the ward’s conflicted psychologist.

Cheadle and Gordon-Levitt give vivid performances that are, in my opinion, borderline award worthy. The script and characters are powerful on their own, but these two actors bring a certain intensity to the screen that takes the entire film to a new level. The result is an honest, heavy portrayal of teen depression, as well as the conflict between society and the “mentally ill” — certainly not a light or fun watch, but worthy of much more attention than it has received in the past.

Manic is available for instant streaming and DVD delivery on Netflix.