Elevate Difference

Boy Interrupted

When I was fifteen years old, I tried to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. I had been taking an experimental prescription acne medication called Accutane, which caused my hormonal ups and downs to feel a thousand times more severe than they really were. In May of 2001, I downed thirty-two pills in my school's bathroom and, following medical treatment, was sent to a juvenile mental institution for a short period of time. Miraculously, the cloudiness I felt in every aspect of my life was eliminated once I realized I had hit rock bottom. I’ll never forget the experience of riding in the back of the ambulance, looking through the window, and for some ungodly reason, feeling okay for the first time in nearly a year. I laughed and cried happy tears as they put the IV needle into my arm and spoon fed me charcoal. The numbness went away and I wanted to live.

That was eight years ago and, thankfully, I’ve never felt that desperate since. But that doesn’t mean suicide hasn’t entered my mind on occasion. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but once you’ve tried to end your own life, the idea of death isn’t as scary as it once was. It’s kind of like having an extra piece of weaponry at your disposal.

Evan Perry, the subject of Boy Interrupted, seems to have felt similarly. When he was also fifteen years old, Evan committed suicide by jumping from his bedroom in New York City. From a very early age, Evan was practically entranced by the idea of death and taking his own life. He was put on Prozac when he was five and spent a great deal of his young life in a psychologist’s office. Evan attempted suicide for the first time when he was in elementary school.

This gripping documentary was created by Evan’s parents, Dana and Hart Perry, who are professional filmmakers. They painstakingly trace their son’s demons from the point of his birth until the end of his life in 2005. The film has been well-received thus far and has garnered several awards and nominations, including one for best documentary at this year’s Sundance film festival. It premieres tomorrow, August 3rd at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.

When I first read about Boy Interrupted, I was worried the film would be either incredibly exploitive or apologetic. I wondered if Evan's parents were creating the documentary in order to settle accusations or suspicions, or as an attempt to paint themselves in a good light in a Lifetime-esque retelling. Thankfully, neither are the case.

Boy Interrupted plays as a bittersweet rendition and tribute to a person whose magnetic charm affected everyone around him. Evan was a talented, smart, and loved person during his lifetime, but his bi-polar disorder and various medications haunted him like he wanted to haunt life. His family, friends, therapists, doctors, and teachers all lend their hearts and honesty to this documentary by appearing on screen and talking about Evan. Through these interviews, as well as an abundance of home movie footage and photographs, we not only get to know Evan and his family, but we’re also asked to ponder the role of children in our society.

My favorite aspect of the documentary dealt primarily with Evan as a youngster. It seems as though Evan was born with the knowledge of his demise and, through all of the highs and lows, couldn’t veer from that path. We live in an era where child victimization is the norm. We like to think of kids as weak, whimpering little nymphs who are always in desperate need of saving. Boy Interrupted’s greatest strength, especially because it was created by his parents, is that it looks at Evan as a person, not a victim of circumstance, and looks at his demons straight in the eye. Certain people seem as though they are destined to lead lives of destruction. Of course the environment we grow up in influences that, but we’re also preordained with different personality traits and desires, no matter what happens to you when you leave the womb.

While watching the documentary, I often had tears streaming down my face because it brought back so many of the feelings I felt when I was in that suicidal state of mind. Evan may not be here anymore, but his parents have honored his memory in what I consider the best way possible. He may be gone, but this documentary will live on forever. I don’t know what would have happened to Evan if he had lived following his fatal attempt, but I can only vainly hope that he would have experienced the same moment of clarity I felt if he had.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please ask for help.

Written by: Sara Freeman, August 2nd 2009

I saw this movie for the first time last night and was absolutely moved. What most struck me about the film was the parents' courage in even making the film in the first place. Having to revisit their son's short life and its tragic end could not have been easy for them. May God bless and comfort them as they try to move forward.

Watching the movie caused oceans of tears for my mother and I. On easter weekend my 20 yr old brother hung himself on a clothes line in my mothers backyard. My youngest brother found him but was unable to speak. He ran down the neighborhood with fear in his eyes. When my mother was told she went to the backyard and saw my brother Desi hanging by a cable around his neck. Desi was ash in color and my brothers girlfriend who was 4 months pregnant ran out to help bring him down. My mother performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived. I worked at the local ER and had not heard about what had happened at my mothers house. My co worker entered the area I was working and she said to me, "This guy who hung himself is all blue. Go look he has no chance." I was advised that the patient in that room needed STAT labs. So I walk in to find the patient intubated with monitors and IV fluids running. I did not recognize him! My brother, the patient, did not register. I look at him hand and saw a mark that he and I shared. I look at him again and removed the blanket to see my brother tattoo of my mothers name. I ran out and I could not cry and I still haven't until today. Well my brother made several statements about suicide and several attempts. He was receiving medications for his depression and Bi polar disorders according to his case worker it was documented and the caseworker swore to witnessing my brother take his medications. Autopsy revealed no medications were consumed in months prior to his death. I do believe that he also was aware of his demise. As a family we struggle and reading and watching this documentary helps us to understand we are NOT ALONE.

Please, if someone suggests prozac for a 5 year old, that should ring alarm bells. Giving psychoactive drugs to very young children is irresponsible. We have NO idea of the long term consequences of such treatment on the developing brain. I'm not anti medication, but this sort of thing should be rallied against. Outside the USA, this is NOT normal.

Evan, "was of the craft", a famous poet quoted that describing the states of intensity that one had to be in to create all the the greatest works of artistic expression that has inspired, entertained and dumbfounded humanity... yet has brought these passionate, sensitive visionaries to their knees in honer of death, rather than the shackles of life's conflicting truth that always leaves you thirsting for ever more... the passionate burn out quick if they can not come to terms with what they know. madg

Just watched this documentary. I was impressed as well by the parents composure. I sincerely feel they did everything that they could to help their son and they loved him very much. And that was what scared me the most regarding my own children. I too have a son who seems to be lacking self esteem. Everyday I tell him he is loved and that he has a lot to offer. But it seems the messages he gets from his peers are more powerful.

Help is available.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I think the last poster is very much ignorant to how serious mental illnesses is. Bipolar disorder combined with depression is hard to treat especially in children, whose emotions are not fully developed. A normal kid does not obsess about his death and try multiple times to commit suicide. A normal kid does not spend their time thinkink about how alone they feel and how many ways they can end their life. It is people like you that will sweep these issues under the rug and dismiss childrens' emotions as just weird things they say. Thank God for Evan's parents and all the parents that posted here with messages of hope and understanding for their children.

I think kids in general say a lot of weird things, so I didn't really feel that this documentary portrayed him any different than a normal kid. What I got from this documentary as that nobody really understood him and when he did open up about his feelings he was told they were wrong.

I could relate to Evan and his desire not to feel so much but I think most people don't understand what it is to feel so much and have so much pain as a result.

My only suggestion to people that are dealing with someone like this is to encourage them to open up as much as possible and to not be horrified by what they tell you... it will only cause them feel more isolated.

I saw part of the documentary last night and want to catch the whole thing. It definitely affected me. I have a 21 year son who is bipolar depressive and although he is doing much better now, I had many years of turmoil and searching for ways to help him. He was 14 when he was dianosed. I have such compassion for the Perrys. I did everything I could for my son- educational consultants, testing, wilderness camp, emotional growth school, and on and on. I have to say it is worth it and I would do it again if I had to. I had many years where I didn't know if he would make it, and every day still has challenges but at least I know he won't harm himself. I was one of the lucky parents. Bipolar disorder is very insidious. But it can be managed. I thank God for my bright, beautiful son every day. He is finally starting to come to terms with his illness and become more responsible. I feel so much respect for the Perrys. They loved their son and did everything they could for him. They are very brave to put this on tv but I am glad they did. It helps to know others feel what you feel.

I haven't seen the movie, but I will. But my manic-depressive newly diagnosed adult son just called to tell me that he identified with the boy and was glad to see that his family was "relieved" not to be dealing with his mood swings any longer. He also mentioned that it was obvious that someone with bipolar illness could never be successfully treated and hope to have a relatively normal life. My son's reaction to this film has left me more terrified than I've ever been. I pray to God that is the only harm this film does.

I just watched this movie. I am beyond tears, I cannot catch my breath. I am 35 years old and I tried to take my own life 8 years ago. Obviously, I failed. I will never do it again because it was not an attempt...I did not want to wake up and could not believe that I did. I will not try again becauseIi do not want to fail again and if I was supposed to be gone, I'd be gone. I still have the same things in my head that I had 8 years ago but I have come to realize that no one will ever be able to listen or understand the things as they are in my head...they will always go thru some sort of filter as they listen. Nothing that is in your head will ever be as big as it is when it is out of your head. This is the most honest film I have ever seen on suicide. The thing that touched me the most and stood out to me the most is that everyone left behind still did not seem to be able to understand Evan. I don't think Evan ever truly wanted help and just hung on as long as he could for everyone around him. I think that is something that no human who fears death can comprehend. When I saw the words that Evan left on his computer...for each six pro their seemed to be six cons. The one point that no one addressed is that he only wanted family at his funeral. I realize that funerals, no matter what, are for the living. I also think this is evidence that they still did not listen to Evan. I hope they find peace and I am in awe of their strength in making this film. I can not believe how much Evans journey has touched me and how I almost feel like I understand him. I also do not know if i will ever catch my breath again.

Just watched it...heartbreaking; beautifully made. What a tragedy for Evan's family and friends, and what a wonderful, cathartic tribute his parents have made to honor Evan's short life. I won't forget this film soon.

I saw the movie sunday afternoon. I saw the title flipped past it & something drew me back to the title. I read the brief description about the movie & then thought let me see what this is all about. I am the mother of 3 teenagers 13 yr old girl & 14 & 18 year old boys. My 13 year old daughter suffers from bipolar disorder & has since she was about 7. I saw my daughter in Evan, I saw they daily battle to just make it through the day. She was hospitalized 3 times in the past 18 months. She tried started cutting herself & suicide by way of running in the middle of a busy main street. I was almost hit running after her. I know the daily struggle the Perry's went through & sometimes I thought I was going to lose my mind. Sara I commend you and everyone else on talking about your struggles. This is what helps my daughter. Like Evan my daughter is vry intelligent an awesome athelete, yet everyday has have a gameplan to make it throught her day. The right combination of medications seems to be working & has for the past 6 months or so, but like Evan my daughter wants to try to get off of them. I told her not now, maybe when she is a little older. Our faith, family & friends & the awesome team of Drs. my daughter has is what gets us through each & every day. I have had to retrain myself on how to communicate with my child. I too have to maintain evryday for the sake of my child. After I saw this movie I felt compelled to find a way to contact people in this same situation. I am so gratefully for the movie and all of your stories.

Wow, thank you all for your comments. I'm really glad this documentary could bring us all together! I'm very grateful for all of your insights. They touched me deeply. Shannon, I sincerely agree that reaching out to others helps a lot. That's part of the reason I decided to write this review from such a personal perspective. My suicidal tendencies may have subsided, but I do fall prey to depression every now and again. The last year or so has been especially hard. This documentary helped me find the clarity again. Please feel free to e-mail me if you need to anytime you'd like. Again, thank you all. :-)

Lovely review...and your story was interesting to read as well. I too cried while watching this documentary because of how it reminded me of myself. My problems with depression were not as...for lack of a better word, temporary, as yours. I still suffer daily. But reaching out to others who have suffered and hearing their stories helps a lot. Thank you so much for sharing.

I'm watching it now and wanted to find out something about it(I turned it on midway). Tough story indeed--I can hardly believe his parents have this much composure. And a lovely, compassionate review from you. Thanks.

I deeply empathize with Evan as well as with the reviewer. Touching respectful review about a very difficult subject. I really want to see this now. Thank you. :)

  • Fellow reviewer M. Brianna Stallings

Thank you very much! :-) This comment made my day.

This was great. Esp. you bringing your own personal insight to it. Thank you.