Mylineal Films, 2023
📷 : Used with Permission, Marcellus Cox
Movies and TV shows with heavy subjects
Movies and TV shows with a lot of dialog
The title character in this brooding melodrama has not had an easy life. Mickey, a 20-something talented aspiring artist, simply wants to pursue his dream of creative expression. He embraces the possible footfalls that come with it, but simply wants to be given a chance. The story begins with his visit to a psychiatrist. As he opens up to his therapist, we see flashbacks of Mickey’s upbringing and key moments that influenced the path of his life.
The most impactful element of his trajectory is the relentless verbal and physical abuse he endures from his father. Mickey’s dad, Randall, clearly maintains the practical mindset with which he was raised, the belief that artistic endeavors are a waste of time and energy. In his view, both are better spent learning a trade that could earn money and help loved ones. Part of Randall’s mindset, we later learn, comes from sacrificing his football dreams for the good of the family. Rather than accepting what his life has become, he continually takes out his anger on his family, beating Mickey up and verbally disrespecting Mickey’s mother, Jackie. Once he finally stands up to Randall, Mickey decides he is better off living on his own. His father does not try to keep him from going but instead encourages him to get out.
In addition to his financial struggles, Mickey battles a bad drinking habit he has learned from his father. When his girlfriend, Grace, brings it to his attention, he admits that he has always used it as a way to calm his anxiety. Between his father’s abuse, his drinking habit and his inability to achieve a career breakthrough, he becomes self-sabotaging and emotionally unavailable, creating problems in his relationships with Grace and a supportive former teacher. The culmination of these issues compel Grace to encourage Mickey to seek the help of a professional. But can Mickey’s new therapist be accessible enough to meet his needs?
There has been an abundance of discourse about the need for young Black men and women to prioritize their mental health and seek counseling when feeling overwhelmed. However, a stigma has long stood in the way of taking this step, with therapy being viewed as something for the “weak,” “soft,” or “crazy.” Many Black men in particular are necessarily raised to be tough and independent, and admitting the need for counseling does not fit in with such old-school ideas of masculinity. Additionally, quality mental health services are not always available or affordable for marginalized groups, which lends itself to continuing the perception in communities of color that mental health support is not meant for people like them.
Another challenge to overcoming the stigma of using mental health services is the matter of finding relatable professionals. In the film, Mickey is a young Black man seeking the help of a professional with a similar background, which is an important component of counseling. Negative or unhelpful experiences with therapy sometimes stem from the patient and professional having vastly different life experiences. This dissonance can leave the patient feeling misunderstood or as though their experience is being minimized. On the flipside, the professional may have their expertise dismissed by the patient. Many female therapists, for example, struggle getting through to their male patients who display misogynistic tendencies. In any case, this indie feature subtly conveys the need to find help from professionals with a shared viewpoint.
Mickey clearly needs help, but has he waited too long to find it? Has he reached a point of no return where he will act out in an irreversibly destructive way?
In entertainment, scenes of protagonists undergoing therapy have often been used as somewhat comedic devices, particularly when they do not fit the profile of psychotherapy patients (i.e. Tony Soprano or Paul Vitti). This is done in fun and meant only as a source of humor - for its entertainment value. However, there is a serious side to the issue that also deserves attention. Mickey Hardaway gets at this by illustrating the importance of doing away with the perception of therapy as something that is needed and should not be embarrassing when sought.
As far as melodramas go, Mickey Hardaway is most reminiscent of the early 2000’s biopic Antwone Fisher. Both films consist of young Black protagonists dealing with residual anger from years of mistreatment and finally seek counseling in hopes of turning things around. Jonah Hill's Stutz, although more of a docu-drama, deals with this topic as well and with similar goals to Mickey Hardaway. The hope is to get young people to seek help when needed and in doing so, find a therapist they feel comfortable with and that is right for them.