For anyone dealing with anxiety or depression, A Mouthful of Air insists with every frame: you are not alone. I have been waiting for Amanda Seyfried to be given material worthy of her insurmountable acting prowess—thankfully, this is the one that finally allows the seasoned actress to hit all the right notes. Though not strictly autobiographical, writer/director Amy Koppelman (who also wrote the book on which this film is based) injects her own personal touches about the beauty of motherhood and female mental health. For any parent, I am sure they can relate to feelings of inadequacy. Loving your child so much that you think you may taint their imperfections is a scary thought indeed, one which I cannot even begin to fathom.
Julie (Seyfried) is a successful children’s book author crippled by her postpartum depression. Her desire to embrace motherhood and be worthy of the love Ethan (Finn Wittrock, American Horror Story) bestows upon her takes over Julie’s life entirely. When she sees her therapist, Dr. Sylvester (Paul Giamatti), he desperately tries to change Julie’s outlook on her condition. Encouraging her to stay on her anti-depressants through her second pregnancy, Julie clashes with Ethan, who is still reeling from Julie’s recent suicide attempt. He wants to move together into a new house, but Julie is less sure about relocation. Her focus remains on her fictional world (a curious reflection of the candy-colored way Julie views her surroundings), and spending nearly every waking moment with her first child, Teddy. As the birth of her daughter draws closer, Julie battles to overcome the trauma of her past.
The juxtaposition of the way Julie sees the world through the visage of her make-believe children’s book character, Pinky Tinkerbink, had a profound effect on me while watching. Pinky is an extension of Julie’s own insecurities, hopes, and dreams. The magical realism of her make-believe world is realized multiple times as sketches and 2D-animated sections. Injecting the fantastical amongst the hyper-real day-to-day of Julie’s life gives us incredible insight into what she is feeling at any given moment. The second a cover of “Pure Imagination” began to play, the tears flowed fast and furious.
Speaking as someone whose eyes have only recently opened up to why people attempt suicide in the first place, I found Julie’s story to be an important one. The best parts of A Mouthful of Air are the ones bleeding with honesty. When we hear about Julie’s struggles with suicide in her own words, it opens up the floor for further discussions. “He’s safer in a world without you,” she tells herself at one point about her own infant son. She cannot even bathe him without thinking he may drown at her hand. The fact that Julie felt she needed to remove herself from his life in the biblical sense is tragic beyond words. Through her struggles, Ethan remains a supportive partner who always seems to want to understand Julie rather than simply brush her off.
A Mouthful of Air is not for the faint of heart, if not obvious by now that it deals with heavy topics. A non-linear narrative fills in the blanks of Julie’s past, and features This Is Us-style flash forwards for good measure. Seyfried is absolutely incredible in her interpretation as Julie—the emotionality bubbling just below the quiet exterior speaks volumes. Wittrock plays opposite her as they clash about the safety of the children and her behavioral issues. I was rooting for their relationship to thrive among the hardships. Each moment shared onscreen oozes with the chemistry of two people truly in love. Whether one comes for Seyfried or a different reason entirely, A Mouthful of Air shares fresh motherly perspective on postpartum depression tastefully, all the way down to that final frame.
A Mouthful of Air shares its messages of heady importance when it debuts in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 29th.