Mental Health Movie Review: Frankie and Alice

On the weekends, I try (and usually fail) to unplug and relax from my typical routines of running my therapy practice and consuming/creating mental health content. Luckily for you, what was supposed to be me enjoying a Halle Berry movie led to this essay where I share the mental health insights that I gained from her 2014  film, Frankie and Alice.

Though I’m trained in EMDR, an awesome therapeutic intervention for trauma, there are limits to what I can treat at the current stage in my career. A diagnosis that I have no direct experience with is Dissociative Identity Disorder (henceforth, DID). You may have heard DID referred to as one of the following:

  • Split personality
  • Multiple personalities
  • Alters/ alternate personalities
  • Dissociative amnesia

DID is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Having two or more distinct personality states that differ in sense of self, ability, emotions, behavior, intelligence, memory, and sensory-motor functioning.
  • “Blackouts” or amnesias where there are gaps in awareness/memory of everyday events, personal information, and recollection of traumatic events.
  • Causes consistent impairment to bodily, emotional, and social functioning.
  • Side note: DID should not be interpreted as demon possession, standard forgetfulness, or, in the case of children, imaginary friends. DID is a serious clinical condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed mental health professional.

Much to my frustration, Hollywood tends to get their portrayal of DID wrong in most cases; however, I was pleasantly surprised to see how clinically sound the content in Frankie and Alice is.

The main characters in this film are Frankie (and her alters) and her psychiatrist, Dr. Oz. I couldn’t help but marvel at the diligence of Dr. Oz as he refused to write off Frankie as “just another junkie” as the police and other mental health staff seemed to do. Ugh, the stigma!!!

Screenshot is taken from Prime Video.

In the image above, you get a glimpse into the moment where Dr. Oz helps Frankie to gain awareness of her multiple personalities, which include:

  • Frankie: A Black female go-go dancer trying to make ends meet.
  • Alice: A white female complete with an antebellum southern accent. And oh yeah, she’s racist as hell, y’all!
  • The Genius: This is a young child personality who tries her best to protect Frankie from Alice.

If you look closely at the image, you’ll see that these distinct personalities have different IQs, ages, socioeconomic statuses, eyeglass prescriptions, blood pressures, and heart rates!

While I am not an expert with DID, it is worth mentioning that there is a high correlation between DID and trauma, which makes sense to me. Think about it, when something bad happens, our brain’s natural response is to dissociate (separate) from the situation so that it doesn’t have to take on the full brunt of what’s happening. With that in mind, it stands to reason how a person who’s survived significant trauma, like Frankie, would be more susceptible to this condition.

It’s also worth mentioning that we all dissociate from time to time; for example, have you ever checked out while driving and miss your exit? Then you’ve dissociated. DID, however, is dissociation to a much higher degree.

Conclusion

I appreciate how well the writers of this film stayed true to the actual features of DID. Plus, Halle Berry is just a phenomenal actress (I mean, have you seen Losing Isaiah?) I highly recommend Frankie and Alice to anyone wanting to be entertained while also learning about a unique mental health condition.

Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Mental Health Movie Review: Frankie and Alice”

  1. Ashley says:

    Always good to see Hollywood getting it right. I didn’t come across DID, or at least diagnosed DID, at all during my career. But since I started blogging I’ve met several people who have it, and it’s been interesting to learn about their experiences.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! And I agree, it is so great to have blogging to connect with others in the MH community. I learn a lot about DID and bipolar through blogs.

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