Canvas, based on the life of first-time writer-director Joseph Greco, is a film so powerful it should be required viewing in schools and universities around the world. Rarely has the issue of mental illness been so realistically tackled on the screen. The subject was touched upon in such recent classics as Girl, Interrupted and A Beautiful Mind, but Canvas takes a stance of advocacy that is so startlingly refreshing that it will bring shivers up your spine.<br/><br/>Marcia Gay Harden plays mother and wife Mary Marino, afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia. Her husband John, played brilliantly by veteran Joe Pantoliano, is the glue that keeps the family from crumbling during Mary's frequent breakdowns and hospitalizations. Caught in the middle of it all is young Chris Marino, played by the adorably talented Devon Gearhart. The 11 year-old boy is firsthand witness to the ultimate frustration inflicted on a family by mental illness. Confused yet resilient, Chris takes up the unusual hobby his mother handed down to him -- sewing. After some practice, he is the talk of the school for creating unique garments (fetching $40 per shirt, to boot). A Gucci book, given as a birthday gift from a friend, cemented his interest in the craft.<br/><br/>Meanwhile, during her many hospitalizations, John feverishly constructs a wooden sailboat for Mary. He takes an extended leave of absence from his day job to work on his project and is reported to the building inspector by a nosy neighbor. And as if having sewing as a hobby wasn't enough, young Chris is bullied for his mother's "craziness" as well as for his father's sailboat obsession. As confused as his life is, Chris carries himself with pride. He is a survivor.<br/><br/>The emotional core of this film is so profound that it is destined to change minds and lead to more mental health advocacy. Kudos to Joseph Greco for bringing this serious but still taboo issue to the forefront of cinema. He is a true champion of social good. And bravo to Marcia Gay Harden, Joe Pantoliano, and star on the horizon Devon Gearhart for their heartfelt performances.
A woman's schizophrenia affects her relationships with her husband and son.
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