Living in a society that stigmatizes mental health and prioritizes physical health makes those who are struggling with mental illness afraid to talk about it. It also may make those who are trying to understand more about it afraid to ask. The movie and television industries have been representing different aspects of mental illness more than ever before, but has it been enough?
Enter John Poveromo. He’s a stand-up comedian from New Jersey who travels across the country telling relatable jokes; he also personally struggles with depression and the isolation, loneliness and anxiety that often come with it. When you see him on stage during one of his shows, you would never know he is battling this invisible mental illness. Perhaps he does a good job of masking it with his comedic personality, or maybe he’s been behind the scenes using his personal stories as inspiration to create something meaningful that people can connect with.
Poveromo announced on social media in October, during Depression Awareness Month, that he had written and starred in a short film available to watch on Amazon Prime, titled “Duppet.” Poveromo has been open about the fact that this film was created due to his personal struggles with mental health.
Duppet is an adorable puppet who represents the part within Poveromo that wrestles with depression and anxiety. In just a short, but heart-tugging 11 minutes, you will see the personal story of Poveromo as a stand-up comedian trying to go about his everyday life. But at every turn he is met by this puppet character who hopes to take the joy out of moments whenever he can, creating self-doubt and exacerbating his feelings of isolation.
What makes this film unique is it takes the form of a children’s television show by incorporating a puppet, while it tackles adult problems. It confronts the issue of mental health in a way we’re not used to seeing. Poveromo takes his passion for comedy and finds a way to merge it with the emotions that strip away his psychological well-being. While the film does have a child-like nature to it, its language and innuendos make it best for an adult audience.
I found watching the film comforting, despite the struggles being addressed. In the short timeframe this film played, I felt every emotion Poveromo was trying to convey. I felt a sense of solidarity knowing that other people actually understand what I go through on a daily basis within my complicated and uneasy mind.
This film did justice to all of us who live with mental illness by showcasing the endless questions that one thinks when they are in a situation that creates anxiety, or how sad it can get when we push people out of our lives that we need because we don’t have the energy to get out of bed. We live at a time when people are constantly shoving what seems to be their perfect lives in other people’s faces via social media, and we often overlook how staged those moments are and how masked people’s true feelings have become.
Sometimes it’s so difficult to try to explain to people who have never had any form of mental illness what is going on within our minds, and this film did that for me. It uses the character of Duppet to show how the darkness lurks and eventually begins to take over your life, if you believe all of the negative things in your subconscious.
The most incredible moment to me was when Poveromo is on stage at one of his comedy shows, and you don’t see Duppet with him. It’s during this small part of the film when you realize that Duppet isn’t on stage with him because that’s where Poveromo feels his happiest. He doesn’t allow his isolation and depression to take over that moment.
“Duppet” is just one of the short films that the producer, Chris Fitz of ifitfitz production company, John Poveromo and four other filmmakers from the Toms River area of New Jersey plan to release through August of 2020. They plan to release one short film a month as part of their Short Film Project. In the meantime, you can find “Duppet” on Amazon Prime.