Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and now, Uvalde. School shootings are tragic incidents that are, unfortunately, a part of the American landscape. Wandering minds aren’t daydreaming about the bell for recess or the school dance. Instead, students plot escape routes and plan accordingly for disaster. Although we wish that these situations weren’t relevant, it is essential to break them down and ask “what went wrong?” Above all, we must listen to everyone’s experiences to prevent them from ever happening again.
James Camali’s new film, The Mental State, discusses the topic at hand and provokes a real and meaningful conversation about school shootings. He dissects the truth behind the shooter’s mindset. Oftentimes, they happen to be people who slip through the cracks of a broken mental health system and are left to their own devices. It does not help that we live in a country whose gun culture allows unprecedented access to firearms.
The Mental State sparks awareness about the real experiences of school shooting victims. Jance Enslin’s breakout leading role as Andy Cady has astounded critics. He proves that this is only the beginning of a propitious career. Enslin takes on the role of a precarious teen losing himself to mental illness; he is both nuanced and multi-dimensional.
Jance Enslin has now received accolades such as Best Male Lead at the Catalina Film Festival and, most recently, Best Actor at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It takes great talent and capability to be able to transform into such a complex character, and Enslin does so in The Mental State. While the film portrays dark themes, Jance stays respectful to the families and communities affected by these tragic events.
The Mental State doesn’t ask viewers to sympathize or accept an “excuse” as to why or how school shooters are created, but it does illustrate the “perfect storm” that spurs such events, for example, the lack of mental health resources, lax gun laws, blind eyes turned, etc. It is vital to talk about these issues in today’s political climate. The Mental State allows its viewers to gain new and fresh perspectives.
As the film continues its festival run at the Portland Film Festival and the River’s Edge International Film Festival, The Mental State and its leading actor Jance Enslin bare the great promise that he and the film will win awards there.
Not only is The Mental State a film that continues to sweep critics off their feet, but it contains a stellar performance from a budding actor whose career is young and hopeful. Ultimately, The Mental State tells supports the notion that it takes a village to raise a child.. But, we are human, and it is hard to abstain from generalizing experiences after the real stories are told time and time again. James Camali wants viewers to keep listening, watching, and gaining new perspectives. Each incident is no more tragic than the other, but each is different, with different heartbreaks and circumstances to work through in the end.