film review · movie review · Uncategorized

#TIFF16 Review: Brain On Fire


Directed by: Gerard Barrett
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Jenny Slate, Richard Armitage, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tyler Perry, Thomas Mann, Navid Negahban

Maria's Rating-3stars-01

When I first began to browse through the different films that were going to be featured at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, Brain On Fire caught my attention. Not only did the title seem familiar, but so did the film’s synopsis. I knew I had heard of it before and it all started to make sense when I realized that this film is based on an extremely popular memoir of the same name.

A New York Post journalist (Chloë Grace Moretz) suffering from a rare autoimmune disorder is repeatedly misdiagnosed following a series of violent outbursts and severe amnesia, in Gerard Barrett’s adapation of Susannah Cahalan’s bestselling memoir, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.

What I Liked

  • How informative it was. Without this film, I would have been unaware of the condition that Susannah suffered from. It was interesting to learn about a disease that would have otherwise slipped right by my radar.
  • That is was based on a true story/memoir. Once again, I have been exposed to a novel that I may have ignored if it weren’t for the film adaptation bringing it to my attention. I would have loved to have had the chance to read it before viewing the film, but I don’t think viewing the film first will have any impact on my reading of the novel once I get around to it.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The repetitiveness. It felt like the same thing kept happening over and over. Something abnormal would happen with Susannah, they would go to the doctor, the doctor would say it was nothing, her parents would put up a fight insisting that the  doctors were wrong. I understand that may be how the events unfolded in reality, but maybe the execution could have been a bit different each time? I just found I was getting bored and the film was becoming redundant.
  • The acting. Okay, it wasn’t that I hated it or anything, but it just felt bland. No one really stood out. I love Chloe Grace Moretz, but all of her characters are starting to feel similar to me…even though they all have significantly different characteristics. The only somewhat standout performances for me were those by Jenny Slate as Susannah’s colleague and friend and Tyler Perry as Susannah’s boss.
  • The lack of detail from the novel. Now I know what you’re thinking, Maria…didn’t you say you haven’t read the book yet? Yes. This is true, but I was able to attend a Q&A with the director of the film (insert name here) after the screening and it was there that an audience question revealed that the whole third section of the book was left out of the film completely. Maybe this content could have been used to break up the repetitive content I mentioned earlier…

While Brain On Fire was informative and inspiring, it failed to keep me interested. I found myself growing tired of the same scenarios happening over and over. Overall, this film was just lacking a bit of depth for me.


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