In moments of real doubt, in bouts of mental crisis, the real world may tilt off-kilter, unmooring us from the people and places that once felt familiar. Art isn't an alternative to real life connection, but it can offer us meaningful footholds in reality. To close Mental Health Awareness Week, the Musta writers collected some pieces of art that have been grounding us, offering us avenues back to our lives.
(TV show) Undone:
I stumbled across Undone one random morning when I was looking for an interesting, light but wacky animation to watch. The two-season show is centered on a 28-year woman, Alma, who after surviving a serious car accident, discovers that she can time travel—so she does this (a lot) to fix things in her life. Space and time, as well as the state of mind of the protagonist is non-linear. So get ready for a trippy rollercoaster ride. It really is unlike anything I have watched before.
With characters that stay with you long after you are done watching, a story couldn’t be more fascinating and layered. But a few episodes in, you see that it is anything but light. And surprisingly, as one who prefers shows that don’t remind me of the sadness in the world, the way Undone manages to weave strong themes—mental illness, indigenous identity and generational trauma—seamlessly (without being overwhelming) and in a fresh, sometimes humorous, other times surreal, way, makes it the perfect watch. There’s so much to unpack and much more to marvel at.
I am not done yet but this show is unimaginably gorgeous— a terrific marriage of style and depth. I went in there that morning to just laugh and enjoy the trippiness of the show, but at the end of each 30-minute episode, I always left feeling rewarded. --Udo Ojogbo
(TV show) Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
You probably have come across a clip or two from Queen Charlotte on social media, or you’ve probably heard someone you know talk about how it is the best thing since sliced bread. The hype around this show is real, and this was what propelled me to watch it. Queen Charlotte, like the other Bridgerton stories, ticks the box on everything you want in a modern-day rom-com. It’s decently paced, the storytelling is great, the score is amazing, everything fits into where it’s supposed to be, the dialogue is brilliant, poetic when it needs to be, didactic when necessary, and discreet when a bit of mystery is called for. You simply cannot hate it.
Queen Charlotte’s love story with King George is graceful, it’s beautiful. It has its moment of sorrow but it is also glamourous, honest, and vulnerable. It tickles the fantasy and drizzles the reality of what love should look like. You cannot miss this since the whole point of the series was to capture the essence of the love they shared. I could go on and on about their character and all they stood for in this series but their story wasn’t what held the keys to my satisfaction; it was Lady Agatha Danbury’s.
After the death of her husband, the pages that had long been sealed flipped open. We were granted an audience into Agatha’s mind, to see what she sees and feel what she feels. In the wake of Lord Danbury’s death, we find Lady Danbury in solitude, lost in thought and drinking port wine from a glass. We soon learn that it’s her late husband’s favorite. She acknowledges that it's awful yet she didn’t even realise that she had been drinking it. She was raised to live for him, betrothed at the age of three, she was taught his favorite color is her favorite color and his favorite food is her favorite food. She never learned to live her own life and she didn’t realise this until he died. The port-wine scene holds a lot of significance because it was the beginning of her journey to reclaim her life but we never really see her take charge until she says "no" to Adolphus’s proposal--the first time she made a decision about her own life. For the first time, the wheel to her life was in her hands and she rode fiercely, refusing to give it up. In saying "yes" to him, all her worries would have evaporated, but then, imagining life with Adolphus reminded her of her chains. She was free, she could now breathe. The breath which she took after the conversation signified that. For the first time in her life, she could finally inhale air that was hers. Agatha’s story is the heart and soul of the story. She reminds us that if "yes" to others would mean a "no" to yourself then it’s never an option worth considering. Agatha reminds us of the importance of being true to ourselves, and that we can thrive only if we live truly. --Esther Aluko
(Music) Already, Always by Bess Atwell:
No piece of music from the last decade has lingered with me as much as this 2021 album from English singer-songwriter Bess Atwell. These songs have propelled me through writing and runs and wedged themselves in the quiet cracks of life, in a way that only music can.
The album itself feels indebted to the breakup album but quietly twists that traditional structure into something more reflective, both kinder and more cutting. In her song 'Red Light Heaven' (my favourite) she embeds the line "I won't help you forget / you need a bit of that" in the pre-chorus, letting it swirl around the listener's mind, holding the song in a tight grasp. Ultimately Atwell uses Already, Always to argue that heartbreak must be felt, and that no amount of articulation will dilute that pain. It is a point of view that many writers refuse to embrace (considering the inexpressibility of this feeling undermines their career,) but it is the only ideology that sustains the weight of such overwhelming emotion.
Already, Always feels like an earnest attempt to reflect on the deafening silence of our most deeply held feelings. Atwell seems to be saying: "I don't know how to explain what I'm feeling, but if you will listen I will try and tell you." I am so glad I first heard it when I did, and I am so excited to revisit it for the rest of my life. --Anna McKibbin
(Movies) Horror Films:
Growing up I had a wildly overactive imagination, there were countless nights where I woke up from nightmares after watching a slightly unsettling trailer, or catching sight of something my parents had on the TV. As I progressed into adulthood, the constant thrum of anxiety was incorporated into my life, and I also gradually gravitated to horror as a genre. Over time I have grown to understand these developments in relation to one another; when you are constantly expecting something bad to happen it can be a relief to watch the worst case scenario plays out.
When I look back on the films I have been watching recently, I have been especially drawn to horror (partially because there has been a resurgence in the last few years,) but also because, for those of us who feel our sense of self slipping out of our permeable containers, it can be a wonderfully affirming way to chart where you end and the world begins. The worst thing has already happened, and I am still here. Most recently I have especially enjoyed Michelle Garza Cervera's Huesera: The Bone Woman, M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and Ken Russell's charmingly low-budget The Lair of the White Worm. --Anna McKibbin