One of the first local films to explore psychological disorders, “Stable Unstable” examines the struggles of seven patients and their relationships with their psychotherapist on the day of New Year’s Eve. The film was written and directed by Mahmoud Hojeij and the avant-premiere took place on January 22 at Grand Cinemas in ABC Ashrafieh. It was a full house, including the director and actor Camille Salameh, who plays the psychotherapist Dr. Ghassan.
The terms hilarious and heartbreaking perfectly fit this film, with the cinema audience at times roaring with laughter and at other moments falling completely solemn as they watched the lonely Wajdi celebrate New Year’s Eve with a table full of mannequins, and saw Rabih grip his wife’s hand in the ambulance after she was shot by a stray bullet during the celebrations — a surprisingly common issue on New Year’s Eve in Lebanon that Hojeij wanted to bring to light.
This film is also very human: the audience sees the characters at their most vulnerable and honest human states: inside a clinical psychologist’s office confessing their secrets and insecurities, or facing a mirror in the elevator and stealing kisses, singing at the top of their lungs, inspecting their imperfections and commenting to themselves on the state of their lives.
In a realistic sense, “Stable Unstable” also disproves several stereotypes surrounding the mental health profession, such as the idea that patients can be immediately cured after one session or a couple of pills.
Furthermore, it is revealed that Dr. Ghassan has his own familial challenges, which sends a clear message: clinical psychologists, who have to remain calm, wise and patient while listening to their own clients, may also need to be heard as well.
In a Q&A session after the showing, Salameh jokingly stated that during the making of the film, the actors playing the patients actually began to open up to him about their real-life personal problems. He also claimed that a piece of advice he always taught his acting students was to listen to other actors to enhance their own acting, mentioning that, in this film, he could embody such a virtue in an actual role.
“Stable Unstable” also intertwines Lebanese culture into its storyline. Some of the characters, such as the ‘natoor’ and his friend, are stereotypically Lebanese in their speech, mannerisms and ignorance of mental disorders. A scene in the elevator reveals a mother chattering to her four children, all of whom are absorbed in some sort of technological device, about how they must eat the ‘mjaddara’ at their grandmother’s house. Another example is one girl arguing with her strict mother, who forbids her from attending a New Year’s Eve party because it is hosted at a boy’s house.
Such typical scenes are humorous, but the audience also gets to see how much the patients hate some aspects of typical Lebanon, including Lebanese gossip, which prevents them from reaching out to anyone and expressing themselves, and the hypocrisy in the Lebanese society that infuriates them.
Do not watch “Stable Unstable” if you are looking for a film with a happy ending. Indeed, the ending is neither sad nor happy, but it is realistic. Many problems are left unsolved and many stories seem unfinished; the audience is left pondering the fate of each patient.
However, you grow attached to each character due to their unique personalities and quirks, and, if anything, the movie will leave you with a greater sense of humility and understanding for the unspoken struggles of each individual in his or her life.