A family grieves, celebrates and reflects on their daughter’s life, whose mental health challenges changed the course of her life and everyone around her. Crafted from two decades of journals, sketchbooks and music she left behind, with family members and actors appearing together, seamlessly blending reality and performance of self.
Producers Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach, Honey Boy) and Margo Mars (Extase, JellyWolf) bring to life the debut of writer, director Lola Young and documentary maker Matt Shea. Supported by LUSH Film Fund & the BFI Doc Society Fund, filmmakers join a family who posthumously try to understand a chaotic mind, with the aim to expand our own understanding of what it’s like to live in a state of mental confusion.
‘Imogen’ deals openly with subjects such as depression, eating disorders, self-harm, self-medication and the constant struggle to answer to oneself ‘What is wrong with me?’.
“The film’s intentional duration length reflects how it feels to lose someone so great too soon. Not a single detail is left untouched.”
The film follows Imogen’s mother DIANE and sister ALLEGRA as they discover Imogen’s innermost thoughts through reading her notebooks, examining her illustrations and listening to the music she left behind. As they go through these artefacts, IMOGEN’s mind comes to life: she becomes a third character with whom her family re-imagine crucial life moments in order to understand her better.
These recreated memories, in which real-life mother and real-life sister appear alongside the actress (a brave performance by upcoming talent Jessamine-Bliss Bell) blend performance, documentary, and the real-time processing of grief. When fusing reality and fiction in this way, first takes are used, creating raw and authentic spontaneous moments.
Imogen Goldie-Wells left behind 22 years of notebooks, sketchbooks and music.
Music was Imogen’s vital source of joy; it fed her soul and pushed her to keep living. She called herself ‘The New Verb’ and was ambitious and uniquely talented. She adamantly instructed that all of her memory cards, demos and recordings were sent to her mother Diane. Much of this was recorded in secret and has not been heard before. These lyrics, in which she pours out her heart, hold the key to understanding who she was. Her sound is achingly vulnerable, fiery yet tender and layered with sharp lyricism, which helps drive the film’s narrative.
The beautiful Original Soundtrack has become a posthumous collaboration between Imogen Goldie-Wells and the film’s composer, Charlotte Hatherley (Bat For Lashes, Birdy, KT Tunstall, Nakhane). It has been released on all major streaming platforms – Listen to it now on SPOTIFY.
“It was important that the soundtrack felt like a collaboration between Imogen and me. I love her raw and honest songs with all the hiss and crackle that comes with home recording. Though my score is deliberately distinct in style, it’s derived from a melodic motif in Imogen’s song ‘Stem Cells’, ensuring our music is intrinsically linked. Alongside Imogen’s music, the film reveals drawings and often painfully honest passages from her diaries; within them, there is hope, beauty and destruction, which I tried to express in the music. Audrey Riley’s beautiful cello playing elevates the more delicate and heart-rending passages, whilst unsettling electronic sounds and modular synth-generated drones take over to reflect Imogen’s desperate mental state. As someone who suffered mental health issues, Imogen was prone to sensory overload which the music had to echo.” CHARLOTTE HATHERLY, COMPOSER
“The film is incredibly moving and could encourage others to start a dialogue with loved ones who are vulnerable.”
THE AUDIENCE & IMPACT
Imogen speaks to a distinctive core audience, in particular to those who may have personally struggled with their own mental health, as well as parents, children, friends, family members, charities and educators who may identify with Imogen’s story. Our audience includes those interested in important subjects of mental health in young people to those who connect with its universal themes of adulthood and identity – as well as anyone interested in artfully crafted films with novel approaches.
Suicide is a difficult yet universal subject matter that is often shown through the same inhuman statistics, reports, newspaper articles, or campaign films that are difficult for the public to truly engage with on a personal level. By meeting Imogen and entering the powerful world of her notebooks and music manifested in this film, we gain a true human understanding of what life may be like for the many people living with mental health conditions. Imogen gives screen time, agency and a voice to an underrepresented group that is too often hidden behind the stigma of mental health. Our commitment in our filmmaking process to work closely with the family has not only been a form of creative catharsis and empowerment to them, but also brings the subject matter of suicide and mental health far closer to the hearts and minds of our audience. In doing so, we hope to create a shared empathy and understanding.
During May Mental Health Awareness Month WME and Lief organised Virtual Preview Screenings with panels and partnered with charities such as Help Musicians (UK) and Crisis Text Line (US). Community Playlists around the theme of Mental Health were attended by Peter Bradshaw (THE GUARDIAN) Lily Newmark (Pin Cushion) and others.
Rhode Island International Film Festival
WINNER Anti Stigma Award
Scottish Mental Health Festival
FINALIST Best Music Film
UK Music Video Awards (UKMVA)