HBO Documentary Films: MY DEPRESSION (The Up and Down and Up of It)

By Jef Dinsmore on Jul 17, 2015 to Documentaries

Doc-logoOverview: Famed Broadway writer, director and composer Elizabeth Swados has struggled with depression her whole life. In MY DEPRESSION (THE UP AND DOWN AND UP OF IT), she shares her experiences with this often-misunderstood condition to make a difficult and sometimes taboo topic more accessible and understandable. Based on Swados’ graphic memoir “My Depression: A Picture Book,” and featuring the voices of Sigourney Weaver (as Swados), Steve Buscemi, Fred Armisen Doc_MyDepression01and Dan Fogler.

Simultaneously heartfelt and entertaining, this documentary illuminates the symptoms, emotions and side effects of the disorder through witty animation, comedy and unique musical numbers. For example, during “Suicide Mobile,” performed by Buscemi, Swados conveys the suicidal thoughts that can arise when an upbeat suicide van taunts her with the idea of ending it all.


Expectations: This is a short animated film looking at a big issue as many suffer from depression. Some deal with it intermittently while others are overwhelmed with it all their lives where they are dragged down into a miserable struggle. This animated approach to the issue is an angle that just might refresh the topic. To show you what I mean here is the trailer.

Gut Reaction: As of late I can relate to depression at bit, but no were the depression Elizabeth Swados describes here. I guess this documentary proved timely as my beloved laptop that I’ve had since I started with HBOWatch has given up the ghost and left me feeling blue. Yes, that sounds like love for an inanimate object, but the journeys we’ve been on together. Anyway, the feelings Swardos experiences were quite more dismal than mine. She details them in the first 20 minutes of this 30-minute piece. The last minutes are spent on how she copes.

It was a fun and lively animated film that clearly tracks how bad a person can get including the thoughts of suicide. It is just a novel treatment of the topic without the usual live-action testimonies that most documentaries take. It is not a film really for anyone not afflicted with the mental distress, but if depression is a part of your life than the film may help put it all in perspective. It even includes talking about chemical imbalances, drugs and therapy. By the end she claims that you can climb out of it and be better prepared to face it when the ‘black cloud’ of depression comes around again. Good advice if you ask me.


In Conclusion: The filmmaker herself states at the end that if even this film helps anyone in the slightest bit than it is worth it. I am sure the whole process of writing it, composing the music for it and giving approval to the total animation sequence was healing and helpful to her as well. Therefore the reason I take the time to review pieces such as MY DEPRESSION: THE UP AND DOWN AND UP OF IT.

Here is Steve Buscemi  doing “the Suicide Mobile.”


Next Week: Monday, July 20 is the debut of PACKED IN A TRUNK: THE LOST ART OF EDITH LAKE WILKINSON. It reveals one family’s discovery of artistic treasures. HBO airs an encore presentation of CASTING BY on 07.27 to close out the documentaries in July.

  • Eleonora Iafano

    The more awareness that is brought to mental health issues, the better. Even though it’s 2015, there still tends to be so much shame and stigma for those who have depression. It shouldn’t be like that anymore. The best way to inform people is through education. While I have not been personally affected by depression, I have had friends who struggled with it and you feel helpless, watching on the sidelines, not knowing what to do or say or how to show them support. The more education we have on the topic, the better informed we will all be. I’m watching this for sure!

  • Ellie Wilkin

    I think its a really interesting idea to use animation to talk about something as serious and as horrible as depression. I suppose it allows you to play around with the physically impossible and encourages you to relate to a drawing of someone who represents a real person, rather than the person themselves which allows the film maker themselves to become somewhat disassociated with what’s going on.

    Anyway, i guess what i;m trying to say is that it looks really interesting!

Find an HBO Series

More HBO

Subscribe to HBO
Countries HBO Is In
Watch Game of Thrones Online
Watch The Leftovers Online
Watch Silicon Valley Online
HBO Premiere & Air Dates
True Detective Streaming
Other Streaming Television
HBO Boxing Live Stream
Game of Thrones on DVD & Blu-Ray
Watch Cinemax Online