Movie Critique Girl Interrupted

Movie Summary

18-year-old Susanna Kaysen has a nervous breakdown and overdoses, causing her to be checked into the psychiatric hospital called, Claymoore. On the ward, she befriends a few of the other girls who lived there with her. Polly, a childlike girl with schizophrenia; Georgina, Susanna’s roommate who is also a pathological liar; and Daisy, who self-harms and has obsessive-compulsive disorder. She is drawn to Lisa a woman who is a sociopath, who is rebellious but charismatic and encourages Susanna to stop taking her medication and resist therapy.

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Lisa has been at Claymoore for a long time and had figured out how to manipulate the staff. She convinces Susanna to escape with her, and they run away to Florida, making a pit stop Daisy’s home. Daisy has been recently released and is living in a house provided by her adoring father. Lisa taunts Daisy claiming she enjoyed the sexual abuse she suffered from her father, Susanna finds Daisy dead the next morning, having apparently slit her wrists and hanged herself. Susanna is disgusted when Lisa searches Daisy’s room and body for cash. She then phones for an ambulance and returns to Claymoore leaving Lisa behind.

After returning to Claymoore Susanna works on her painting and writing and cooperates with her therapy. Before she is released, Lisa is returned to Claymoore. She steals Susanna’s diary and reads it for the amusement of the patients, turning them against Susanna. After reading an entry in which Susanna feels sympathy for Lisa being a cold, dark person, Lisa attacks Susanna, who runs. After Susanna confronts her, Lisa breaks down and tries to commit suicide, but the patients talk her out of it. Before Susanna is released the next day, she goes to see Lisa. Susanna reflects that she will remember Claymoore forever.


A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Susanna would often do whatever was asked of her to preserve relationships.
  2. Susanna put all of her trust into Lisa almost immediately and even idealized her.
  3. Susanna would often question who she was and what the point of her getting better was if she did not matter in the universe.
  4. Susanna regularly participated in binge drinking, smoking, and unprotected and frequent sex with strangers.
  5. Susanna tried to kill herself by taking an entire bottle of aspirin followed by drinking an entire bottle of vodka. She also showed signs of past self-mutilation.
  6. Susanna often had episodes of anxiety and would lay in her bed and not want to talk to anyone. Along with the anxiety would come irritability which she would take out on others whether they were the cause or not. The episodes never lasted more than a few hours.
  7. Susanna said more than once that she did not care about herself or her illness.
  8. Susanna often got angry when she was not allowed to do what she wanted she would verbally abuse the people who did not let her do the things she wanted.
  9. Susanna had what she called time jumps where she would essentially have flashbacks.

Positive Messages

The movie shows the fact that people with borderline personality disorder can be helped if they follow the right regulations and go to therapy. The movie also humanizes the disorder with the connections that Susanna makes with the other girls in the ward. The film also shows that Susanna is capable of living on her own and surviving. The movie depicted subtly a relatively accurate portrayal of someone who has been diagnosed with BPD. Throughout the movie, Susanna participates in risky behavior and building up relationships just to make her feel like she was not alone. I feel like the movie made a half-hearted attempt to show BPD correctly however with every move they made to make it realistic they took a step backward by not actually following through or actually showing what they were talking about.

Negative Messages

The movie did not actually have the actor show very many signs of borderline personality disorder but mostly just had the therapist tell her she was. One scene of the movie shows Susanna reading about the disorder and saying that the description fit her however the movie never showed her acting out those descriptions. There are a few scenes of her participating in sex acts, and the reason she was sent to the mental institution was that she took an entire bottle of aspirin and followed that with a whole bottle of vodka. Also, when she was at the hospital for the suicide attempt, they showed her wrist, and it appeared to have been mutilated. The movie never really explains what happened to her wrist, but they insinuate that she had committed self-mutilation and that was part of the reason she was in the mental institution.

Messages about Mental Health Professionals

The movie starts off putting the therapists in a bad light because of the way the patients are speaking about them. The film does not show whether the accusations about the male therapists are true or not but there are scenes where Lisa hints that he was having the patients participate in sexual acts for him. The male therapist is also seen as uncaring, in one of his sessions with Susanna you see the camera pan to him sleeping while she is talking. On the flip side the female therapist is depicted as a malicious woman by the patients from watching the movie, however, I think they just were saying those things because she did not let them get away with things and she was the therapist assigned to the patients that were harder to keep control of in the ward. The two therapists in the movie did not shine a great light on mental health professions for the majority of the film. The male therapist never honestly did; however the female therapist made a come-back towards the end of the movie when she helped Susanna get her act together and actually start working towards getting better and out of the hospital.

Journal Article

Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) display a pervasive pattern of instability reflected in affect, behavior, and relationships (pg. 53). Among treatment-seeking individuals with BPD, more than 50% report severe impairment in interpersonal relationships, employment, and global social adjustment (pg. 53).

The study took twenty-six adult women (ages 18-60) meeting DSM-IV criteria for BPD based on the International Personality Disorder Examination and PTSD based on the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview. Participants also had recent and recurrent intentional self-injury, which was defined as at least two suicide attempts or non-suicidal self-injury episodes in the last 5 years, with at least one episode in the past 8 weeks. Exclusion criteria were lifetime psychotic or bipolar disorder, IQ less than 70, mandated to treatment, lived outside commuting distance of the clinic, or required primary treatment for another debilitating condition (e.g., life-threatening anorexia nervosa). The sample was an average age of 32 and was primarily white, single, without a college degree, and earned $20,000 or less per year. In the year before treatment, almost all the women had engaged in non-suicidal self-injury, and a little over half had attempted suicide. The most common most distressing traumas were childhood sexual abuse, adult rape, childhood physical abuse, and intimate partner violence.

This study I think would have benefitted Susanna tremendously because it would have given her some sort of reality to her illness. The time period, the 60’s, treated people with mental illness as either one crazy or two lazy. There is even a point in the movie where the nurse tells Susanna she is not crazy just a lazy, selfish, little girl. Where in other parts of the film with the more hallucinatory illness the people were called crazy and were generally avoided.

This study made sure to take into account the environmental factors that could be detrimental to the illness and also the factors that could be affected by the illness. The study takes into account global functions, global social adjustment, interpersonal problems, quality of life, and unhealthy days. These five key elements make a big difference in a study because they are what make different people’s experience of BPD valid. BPD, like most mental illness, cannot be put into a box like most people want to do. Different people experience it differently, and I think that is what this article is trying to show. If the health-care professionals in the movie had this kind of information for BPD or even any other illness they were dealing with the quality of life for their patients would be better and the probability of them getting better and getting out of the hospital would be raised tremendously.

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Movie Critique Girl Interrupted. (2019, Aug 05). Retrieved November 28, 2022 , from

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