Writing a screenplay is daunting in of itself; making it be semi-autobiographical is a whole other beast in of itself. Why make life easy though when you’ve decided to also direct your first feature while you’re the limelight of the feature itself? That is exactly what Dillion Tucker (Uneasy Lies the Mind) did with Pure O and ended up creating a wonderful, heartbreaking, and troubling indie feature that surely is going to captivate its audience and possibly have some looking at themselves to see if they, too, have been misdiagnosed in some way or another.
The film centers on Cooper (Daniel Dorr) as his life is turned rather upside-down when he is diagnosed with Pure O, which is an extreme form of OCD. His life being tense already with his intense job of being an addiction councillor, and having a partner, Emily (Hope Lauren), he eventually wants to marry, means things start to get shaky. Not fully understanding the diagnosis, he decides to seek some care after a horrific episode so he can not only further understand what Pure O is but also get a handle on what he’s been diagnosed with.
While the relationship between Cooper and Emily is certainly pushed to its boundaries, their chemistry and love for one another is never thrown into question. With any relationship, the road is bound to be rocky, and being told you’ve been diagnosed with a very extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, that creates dangerous thoughts that cannot be turned off meaning the road is more riddled with landmines than some uneven pavement. The performances from both Daniel Dorr (Bill & Ted Face the Music) and Hope Lauren (The Forever Purge) certainly provoke strong emotional responses from the audience and pack a heavy punch that simply carries the audience throughout the film. They are the highlights of the film, however not the only highlights. There is another character in Cooper’s life in the form of Rachel (Landry Bender) who relies on Cooper as she is in recovery, and his personal demons and journey puts that in jeopardy. It further exemplifies how serious mental health issues are, and that they can affect anyone and everyone and sometimes it creates a danger to those around us. Due to the nature of Cooper’s work, he has to be someone’s, in this case Rachel’s, support system, but due to what he is dealing with himself, it is hard to fill and handle that role.
What Pure O excels at is telling the story of someone suffering from a mental illness and how it effects their day-to-day and everyone around them. It refuses to sugar-coat anything, refuses to hold back its punches, and brings to light issues that are typically overlooked. It boasts incredible performances from its main cast of Daniel Dorr, Hope Lauren, and Landry Bender (Fuller House) that truly shake the audience and will force them to linger with the reality of this disease. It is not something to be taken lightly, nor is it something that can be ignored as it does affect people and differently. While help is never easy to come by, it is something that should be addressed. Pure O doesn’t shy away from the realities that come with suffering from something like Pure O and the realities that come with it. It can be debilitating and can change someone’s life, and Dillion Tucker refuses to shy away from that reality. It is not an easy watch by any means, and Tucker, who describes this as semi-autobiographical with his own diagnosis, doesn’t want to pretend that his journey was anything that it wasn’t. Pure O is raw and emotional, refusing to hold back, leaving audiences reeling from the emotional impact.
Screened during SXSW 2023.
For more information, head to the official SXSW Pure O webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.
Categories: In Theaters, Reviews
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