I'm Free Review
By Ashley Maniw (July 17th, 2018)
Directed by: Edvard Karijord & Bendik Mondal
Produced by: Edvard Karijord & Bendik Mondal
Key Cast: Tore Karijord, Karin Karijord, Knut Karijord, Torill Karijord
Directed by Edvard Karijord and Bendik Mondal, I’m FREE is a short documentary that tells the story of Geir Karijord. On October 8, 2013, Geir went missing. While there hasn’t been an update to his case, his family continues to hope that he will return one day. The film tells the story of one man’s internal struggles while also illuminating how small stories have long-reaching implications.
The interviews with family members paint such an effective portrait of Geir that his presence and loss is felt even to me, a stranger to this family. He was a man that appreciated and relished in his freedom from a young age, but who was also deeply affected by mental illness as an adult. It’s moving and painful to watch his family members grapple with confusion and guilt over the loss of their brother and son. But it’s effective and helps show how devastating mental illness can be. It doesn’t just affect individuals - their family members feel pain as they watch a loved one devolve without truly knowing or understanding what they’re going through.
There’s so much compassion for the subjects and Geir that it’s impossible not to be moved by this family’s tragedy. His family wanted to help him, but couldn’t find a way in to his world. It’s a reminder of how we should look at mental illness – not as just a set of symptoms inherent to an individual but as something that affects families and communities more than we realize.
You can never truly know someone and what’s in their hearts or their mind. When it comes to mental illnesses, it’s even harder to identify with someone and understand how they’re feeling. The film highlights this by lingering on long shots of Geir’s abandoned house – empty rooms that still have touches of his life. It seems impossible that he’s gone when there’s so much of him still around. It’s devastating to watch a mother collect her son’s things without knowing where he is or what happened to him.
However, the film is not all sadness. There are some light moments as his family recalls Geir’s sense of humour and his love for freedom. Until they know for sure what happened to Geir, there is still hope that he will come back from his self-imposed isolation.
Isolation isn’t just a thing that happens one day out of the blue. There can be signs, but we can never really know what goes on in a person’s mind. By using shots of the wilderness in Norway where Geir was last seen, the film also shows how people’s lives have a wider reach and impact. Throughout the tragedy, this documentary serves as a reminder that not all of us are totally lost – that we will forever remain in the memories and minds of our friends and family after we’re gone.
I’M FREE is a moving and important look at the isolation of mental illness and how it can not only take just from the individual suffering, but from an entire community. It’s a significant story, not just for this affected family, but for all of us to see how people often struggle and how they can be free.
- Ashley Maniw