Made by Budd Clayman out of an unfeigned desire to come to terms with multiple debilitating mental illnesses and connect with the world around him, OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie is a tender, painful and frustrating work of vulnerability, and because of this in some ways deflects critical commentary. A hodgepodge of clips from Clayman’s days as an aspiring filmmaker to present-day visits he makes to L.A. and interviews with other bipolar sufferers, the doc’s structure and look may be uninspiring, but that’s not the case with his stream-of-consciousness narration, which plays over dramatizations of mundane tasks and reveals what it’s like to suffer from mental illnesses: “Gotta risk being hurt, being in life, being in the flow, just being a part of everything—yeah, that’s what I wanna be.”
Surprising is the way the documentary feels personal despite having two other credited directors; Glenn Holsten and Scott Johnston never come off as anything less than helping hands, their mostly off-screen presence serving as a sounding board for Clayman’s struggle to come out of his shell for the movie. OC87 is buoyed by the trio’s conviction in the therapeutic capacity of movies, their hope and positivity aiding in this not exactly fun doc’s watchability, proving that helping others or oneself, while honorable, isn’t exactly glamorous. As Clayman lets us in on the obtrusive and uncontrollable thoughts that stifle his efforts toward functioning normally, we witness the degree to which the quality of his life—his job, the film’s financing, his emotional support—is owed to others, especially his father. Because of this, it’s obvious that, while Clayman’s life has been stymied, he’s luckier than most people, a fact of privilege that’s never acknowledged in the film, but would probably be healthy to realize.
At one point, Clayman’s psychologist mentions to him that if he actually looked as anxious as he felt on the inside, everyone would be freaked out. That seems obvious to us, but to Clayman it’s news he needs to be reminded of. And it’s in this observation that the film takes shape: Compared to the dramatic depictions of mental illness in movies like Pi, OC87 appears off because there’s little in the way of externalized indications of illness. But it’s in this rather dry and ordinary portrait of Clayman that it’s possible to realize how internalized real mental illness is; it can seem almost unnoticeable to others, silently isolating the sufferer from those who might be able to help. Because we witness how the help of others has aided Clayman, his choice to open up and stand naked for the sake of his movie can only seem like a step in the right direction.