Aaron Fisher’s Inside the Rain comes at an interesting time for the entertainment industry. Marginalized groups are seeing a surge in representation like never before – although, the progress, is just beginning. Roughly half of the content that thrives on highlighting marginalized communities, such as people of color or the LGBTQ community, actually comes from genuine sources. One group of people, in particular those living with mental health conditions, arguably get the most notorious of this treatment. Films that follow characters with severe mental conditions almost never come from artists who have actually been diagnosed with said conditions. Inside the Rain is the rare film that opposes this Hollywood practice.
The feature directorial debut from rising artist Aaron Fisher, Inside the Rain, follows the exploits of Ben Glass – an aspiring college student who lives “recklessly extravagant”. The phrase meaning living with ADHD, OCD, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and more. Fisher himself has legitimately lived this exact life. He has seen the inner-workings of the U.S mental health care system firsthand. He gives his film a new meaning by not only directing and writing, but also starring as the lead. His quest for authenticity takes a few unexpected twists and turns, resulting in a solid yet artistically bold therapeutic venture.
Fisher’s script gives a new meaning to meta storytelling. Fisher playing Glass, a similar yet fictional character, as a genuine gateway into the world of mental health is already slightly meta. This jumps to a new level when the plot escalates into the making of a film within itself. Wrongfully accused of trying to attempt suicide on campus, Glass is on the verge of being transferred out of college. He sets out to prove his innocence to the board of education by filming a dramatic reenactment of the events the lead to his accusation, starring himself. His tough love shrink (Rosie Perez) and deadbeat producer (Eric Roberts) try their best to help Glass along the way, with and against his liking. Things take a turn when Glass meets Emma Taylor (Ellen Toland), a sex worker and model who he wishes to cast in his film – for a multitude of reasons.
Thankfully, the film does not feel as plot-heavy as it may seem. Fisher is undeniably juggling a lot of delicate themes. To the viewer’s surprise, many of it lands. Charismatic performances are just the cherry on top of a charming script. Not perfect by any means, but that is okay. Some beats could have been replaced in favor of others. Some clarity gets lost amongst all of Fisher’s juggling. There are a few moments that feel better in concept than they were in visualization. Despite these criticisms, Fisher manages to take one’s engagement on a trip worthwhile. Fisher’s sense of levity evokes that of a young Wes Anderson. Even if it all does not land, the moments that do resonate enough for many reasons.
Realized through laughter, frustration, and self-contemplation – Fisher succeeds at bridging a gap in the conversation on mental health. Inside the Rain features many aspects of mental health, but its goals are not only just set on that topic. Fisher highlights the desire of being free from systematic judgment. Whether if one lives a different lifestyle by choice or not, Glass with his mental health and Taylor with her sex work, does not constitute that they be placed in a box. Underneath the surface, as different or hard to comprehend as it may be, lies the urge to be seen not as a lessor or successor, but as an equal. One can question the extent of Fisher’s success in balancing this theme between mental health and sex work. The last thing they can say, however, is that it was not a charming and lively attempt.
Fisher deserves enough praise as a first time feature director for giving esteemed actors such as Perez and Roberts quality material to work with. It is always great to see the two and even though they only play supporting characters, both are vibrant enough to leave a strong impression. Compelling performances from Toland and Fisher himself refuse to be overshadowed. The film invokes a certain level of inspiration, further proving that no marginalized voice is less capable of excelling in the vast majority of genres in film. Films on mental health can explore different avenues and storytelling methods to spread awareness. In this case, Inside the Rain being a strategically meta rom-com-drama. Seeing such a statement come from someone like Fisher is another step for proper representation.