Hot Docs 2016 Review: God Knows Where I Am
God Knows Where I Am tells the tragic story of Linda Bishop, a woman battling severe mental illness who starved to death after she was released from a New Hampshire mental hospital in 2007. Her family was not notified of her unconditional discharge and Bishop left the facility with nothing and nowhere to go. She ended up in an abandoned farmhouse and survived through a harsh New England winter on apples and melted snow before dying from starvation four months later.
Bishop left behind a detailed diary which provides much of the substance for the film and allows for a thorough insight into Bishop’s life and her time in the farmhouse leading up to her death. Her diary, narrated to great effect, is compelling and heartbreaking. Bishop’s acceptance of her fate in the final few excerpts is particularly devastating.
This is a fairly standard talking-head documentary elevated by some exceptional cinematography and a tragic central story. Directors Jedd and Todd Wider weave several perspectives into the film and ensure that the abandoned house and its surroundings become a character in the film. At 97 minutes, this film could have been trimmed or included a further exploration of the mental health system. The cinematography, as lovely as it is, along with the pacing supress the urgency of the diary narration.
At one point, Bishop’s diary reads “I’m trying but I don’t know what to do”, which is a sad truth of her circumstance but also a sentiment shared by those who knew her and the mental health system which tried to treat her.
While not essential viewing, God Knows Where I Am is a subtle, well-made film about mental illness and a mental health care system that can completely fail people who need it most.