News of Robin Williams' suicide has left his legions of fans dumbfounded and crushed. Williams was not just a funnyman, he was an everyman. Though his genius was epic, his persona was relatable. While so many stars seem to be plastic and unapproachable, Williams was authentic, flawed, and loveable.
Though he will always be remembered for his comic brilliance and zaniness, he was one of those rare actors who could do comedy and drama with equal aplomb. He could make us laugh and cry in equal measure.
While a handful of his films rank in my favorites list, "The Fisher King" has always been in my top 5 of all time. Williams acted with every single part of his body, his eyebrows, his elbows, his feet -- all of them were utilized in his remarkable performance of a man who had lost everything but his humor and was on a quasi-mythic quest to get it all back.
An image that will always be emblazoned on my mind is Williams' expression when his character, Parry, comes in contact with the Red Knight, an embodiment of the fear and pain that has plagued him since the experience of a horrific tragedy years earlier. Williams' face contorts into such terror as Parry is immobilized and debilitated by his intense sorrow.
Hearing the news of Williams' suicide and the depression he suffered leading up to it, I envisioned him at the end facing that red knight and not knowing how to escape.
In the movies, there is often a happy ending and neat resolution. In life, unfortunately, it is not always so simple. In "The Fisher King," Parry slipped into catatonia, crushed by the devastation of his past. Eventually, however, he awakened and was able to go on living. Sadly, in real life, Williams' ending was not so.
So what do we do with a sad ending? Of course we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that Williams is no longer suffering. And we can hope that there is an afterlife like the one his character experienced in "What Dreams May Come" where he will find ultimate redemption, love, and joy.
But what of those of us he left behind? Must we hang our heads as we leave this theatre, cry as the credits role, despair that there will be no happy ending?
Life gives us constant opportunities to give up, to abandon ourselves to the conclusion that the great drama in which we are all actors is ultimately more tragedy than comedy. But that would be succumbing to depression rather than combating it. The Red Knight that hounded Robin Williams and took him from us is not invincible. All of us face him from time to time. Some, those with clinical depression , must flee or fight him daily; while others encounter him now and again when life seems cruel, unfair, and inexplicable -- when someone we love or admire is taken from us too soon for example.
But we are all capable of fighting him, particularly if we combine forces to battle him together. The greatest weapon we have against depression is kindness, generosity, and action. Depression immobilizes, and so the best way to fight it is to mobilize and engage in some positive action. In memory of Robin Williams, and in gratitude for the laughter and tears that he gave us, we can help others who are suffering with this devastating disease.
In partnership with the The Minding Your Mind Foundation, eflixir.com will donate the proceeds of all Robin Williams' films streamed on the site throughout this week to suicide prevention.
Don't just feel bad, do good! And don't just watch the world, change the world!
eflixir.com is a new film/cause site that curates thousands of uplifting Hollywood films and donates to great causes every time you watch. The Minding Your Mind Foundation leads initiatives that reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues among adolescents in middle school, high school and college.