I was introduced to the book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, over five years ago. When I heard what it was about, I became intrigued with the premise. Since then, the book has been added to my TBR (to be read) list. While I haven’t read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden yet, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the film. So, I recorded it on my DVR when it was airing on television. Out of all the movies in my roster of films for A Month Without the Code, this is the only movie that’s rated R. It’ll be interesting to see if it could be “breened”. I also wanted to see if the movie would encourage me to read the book. Film adaptations can be better or worse than its source material. While comparing them is fine, judging them on their own merit is also important.
The realistic depiction of mental health: When incorporating a real-life topic like mental health into a film, it’s better to depict it as realistically as possible. In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the portrayals of mental health appeared realistic. For Deborah’s schizophrenia, audience members can hear the “voices” in her head and see her imagined world come to life. Something that I noticed was how the patients had a sense of humanity to them. Some of them seemed to be lost in their own worlds more than others. But, at the end of the day, they had something important to say and a mind of their own.
The discussion of abuse toward patients: I’ve seen several films that talk about mental health, especially where the main setting is a psychiatric hospital. Usually, the treatments themselves end up being abusive toward the patients. In this film, some of the patients are abused because of a cruel employee. I’m glad the movie didn’t shy away from addressing this particular subject. In the films that I’ve seen about mental health, I don’t recall this topic ever being brought up. The fact that a movie from the ’70s that takes place in the ’50s would incorporate this issue in their film is pretty interesting.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The randomness of the “dream sequences”, To represent the imagined world inside Deborah’s mind, a series of “dream sequences” would appear at various moments in the movie. I think these “dream sequences” were important to the character of Deborah. But how these sequences were incorporated into the film was very random. Sometimes, they would suddenly appear without any warning or build-up. While the imagined world was addressed, it was never explored and dissected. I understand that this was meant to give audience members an idea of what living with schizophrenia is like. But the suddenness of these “dream sequences” was somewhat off-putting.
Very little character development: Because this story revolves around Deborah, she is going to receive the most character development. While this is true, she ends up becoming the only character the audience gets to really know. There’s about two or three other characters that also receive character development. However, the audience doesn’t get to know them as well as Deborah. For the rest of the characters, members of the audience just become familiar with them. This is very different from something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, where the audience gets to know each of the characters in the story. Because of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’s nature, most of the characters felt like they were there just for the sake of moving the plot forward.
Rushing the recovery process: In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the story was about Deborah’s experience in a psychiatric hospital. For most of the movie, it seems like whenever she took one step forward in her treatment, she would then take five steps backward. It wasn’t until about the last twenty minutes when Deborah experienced a break-through in her recovery process. Because Deborah’s end result happened way too quickly, it felt like it was achieved too easily. This reminded me of The Three Faces of Eve, where it seemed like everything was wrapped up in a neat little package. It’s understandable that, in a film, there’s only so much time to tell a novel long story. But maybe this is where the book succeeds more than the movie.
My overall impression:
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the only rated R movie in my A Month Without the Code roster. I figured this was because of how the subject of mental health was realistically depicted. While this is one of the reasons for the film’s rating, it was also rated R for content related reasons. As for the quality of the movie, I thought it was just ok. It’s not the worst thing to be put on film, but it didn’t impress me either. The story wasn’t as intriguing as I hoped it would be. However, there were things about the film that I did like. One of them is Kathleen Quinlan’s performance, which was one of the highlights of the movie! Despite how I feel about the film, I still want to read the book. Who knows? Maybe the book will be better than the adaptation. Speaking of the adaptation, we need to talk about the film’s content. Sure, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden could be “breened”. But only if several aspects of the movie were to change. These aspects are:
- Language: There were several times when characters either swore or spoke unpleasant words. The words themselves would need to be omitted and replaced with better choices.
- Blood: In the film, there were a few instances when blood was shown on screen. This would need to be reduced by a significant amount.
- Violence: Some violent moments are featured in the movie. They would need to be significantly reduced.
- Unpleasant imagery: In one of the “dream sequences”, there is a dead body featured on screen. This part of the film would have to be omitted.
- Nudity: There are two scenes with brief nudity. These scenes would need to be removed.
- Sexual references: At the psychiatric hospital, there was one character that constantly made sexual references. Their lines would be rewritten before production begins. In a “dream sequence”, it is heavily implied that Deborah has sex with a male from her imagined world. This part of that scene would either be completely eliminated or rewritten.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
What are your thoughts on this review? Do you think this film could be “breenable”? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!