Review: ‘Maggie Black’ lacks depth necessary to portray writer’s struggles with mental illness

Jessalyn Maguire stars as "Maggie Black."
(Indie Rights)

Shedding light on an oft-overlooked subject, “Maggie Black” examines the intersection of pregnancy and mental illness. Actress and screenwriter Jessalyn Maguire brings her own challenges with anxiety and depression to both the lead role and the script, but the good intentions don’t create a good film with this psychology-driven drama.

Maggie (Maguire) is years past her debut bestseller, and pressure from her publisher begins to mount when she isn’t producing any new work. Meanwhile, her happiness at her new pregnancy with her husband, Tom (Chris Beetem), is dampened by worries. She takes medication for her struggles with mental illness, but out of concern for her baby, she quits cold turkey. The borders between reality and illusion soon become unclear for the writer — and the audience — as she begins to unravel.

As an actress, Maguire capably communicates Maggie’s struggles, but her screenplay and Stanley Brode’s direction fail the character and the viewer when it comes to her dreams and hallucinations. Maggie is an intentionally difficult character, but the film never really shows empathy for her, even though it works to create an intellectual understanding of what she’s going through. Despite its good intentions, “Maggie Black” may do more harm than good, offering a portrait of female mental illness that leans toward hysteria, lacking real details of and understanding about the experiences of Maggie and women like her.



‘Maggie Black’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 28; Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood