Comedians are often depicted as being happy on the outside, crying on the inside. Going on stage and making people laugh night after night has to take a psychological toll. It’s an inherently lonely profession and rates of depression, anxiety, alcoholism etc are much higher than most other careers. The sad clown paradox is alive and well on the stand-up circuit. It plays a major role in The Bright Side.
Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux) is a cynical stand-up who turns her unhappy life into material for her act. Alone with 30 in the rear-view mirror, she medicates heavily and chooses quick encounters ahead of anything which might involve emotional involvement. When she receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, her first thought is to just end it all. Take the easy way out. However, after being persuaded by her family to undergo chemotherapy, life begins to throw up surprises.
The Bright Side is a daringly and deliciously dark look at disease, disconnection and depression. The reason why Ruth Meehan’s comedy-drama works so well is a brilliant central performance from Devereux. Her Kate is scarily believable, and although the ending is perhaps a little too much to swallow, we’re rooting for her throughout. The Bright Side slowly creeps up on you and, while avoiding most of the normal pitfalls, is surprisingly touching and powerful.
The Bright Side screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival.