So, spoiler alert: one of the characters suffers from hallucinations and needs to be institutionalized. And spends the rest of his life having hallucinations, basically. And (seriously, if you haven't watched the movie, stop now) that person is our main character.
It turns out that half of the movie is populated by characters and situations that don't actually exist. When John finally realizes all this, he struggles to find a way to get well while also continuing that brilliant career he'd been building. The balance is tough, and he eventually decides to go off his meds…which means the hallucinations are basically there to stay.
The good news is that John ultimately does prove that he can function and even flourish with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. With lots of help from his family, of course.
Questions About Madness
Does the movie kind of buy into the stereotype that, in order to be brilliant, you have to be a little nutty?
Er, is it responsible to suggest that going off your meds is a good idea?
What do you make of other people's reactions to John's illness? Are they sensitive? Realistic?
What do you make of the portrayal of mental health professionals/facilities and therapies?
Chew on This
The movie kind of plays up the notion that John's madness is part of John's brilliance, or vice versa. In the movie's logic, you can't have one without the other.
The movie does not romanticize mental illness. It just suggests that a mind can be functional and "beautiful" even when there is a diagnosable problem.