The uneven style reflects the title of the film perfectly.

by Nav Qateel

Jean Veber’s thriller Bipolar initially looked as though it would be a cross between Neil Burger’s Limitless, and one of the many adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sadly, Bipolar never managed to become as interesting or entertaining as either. This is only French director Jean Veber’s second movie, with his first–the middling thriller The Pharmacist–made back in 2003.

Bipolar tells the story of Harry Poole (Andrew J. West), a Bipolar sufferer who goes for experimental treatment that may help get his disorder under control. When Harry starts displaying alarming side effects, where he starts to lash out at people for the smallest thing, Doctor Lanyon (Andrew Howard) stops the test. Harry gets hold of more pills and continues to treat himself, but his confidant alter ego Edward Grey takes over, making him very dangerous to everyone around him.

Veber shot this using standard film, video footage and the occasional movie clip, which I’m assuming was one of the old Jekyll & Hyde flicks. Under Lanyon’s orders, Harry makes a video diary of the medical trial, but when the trial is discontinued and he returns home, Harry/Edward continues to record the entire thing using two cameras. When Harry is setting up his cameras at home, I assumed we were about to be dragged kicking and screaming, into overused found-footage territory, but for some strange reason, Veber didn’t really use the footage other than occasionally showing us through the camera. I’m at a loss as to why the director would go to all that trouble setting up cameras, to then not adopt the footage as part of the film.

Bipolar
Directed by
Jean Veber
Cast
Andrew J. West, Emma Bell, Beatrice Rosen, Lenny Jacobson, Andrew Howard
Release Date
25 May 2014
Nav’s Grade: C


Andrew J. West played his dual character fairly convincingly, but I felt any seeming shortcomings in his performance were down to the direction rather than the actor. West handled playing both Harry and Edward well, but the way he moved from one to other was a little less inspiring. This looks to be West’s first starring role and one would hope this gets the actor some deserved recognition.

The first of Harry’s two beautiful love interests was the ethereal-like Emma Bell, who played Anna, the nurse he meets while in the clinic. Bell did as well as could be expected with the small role she had, but the actress certainly made an impression. The sexy Beatrice Rosen had more to do with her scared and abused character, Ivy. Ivy meets Harry while he’s being Edward, and the two eventually get into a relationship, with neither girl aware of the other. Eventually Edward gets abusive with Ivy, and Ivy becomes too frightened to break up with him, especially after receiving threats of death if she ever tries.

The pacing made Bipolar feel a good bit longer than its 80-minutes, and the uneven style Verber used to tell the story didn’t help much either. When broken down into acts, Bipolar‘s first was promising as we learned who the players were and the layout, with the middle my favorite, but the final just lost it for me, taking me right out of the story. The reason for this was the way Harry became a dislikeable character, which is fine when the character is also interesting, or when you can empathise, even a little. But he finally became someone you no longer wanted to see. That along with the pacing and less than great direction, made Bipolar a film that could have been so much more.