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Thriller 'Fear of Rain' seeks to remove stigma surrounding mental illness, promote empathy, stars say

Thriller 'Fear of Rain' seeks to remove stigma surrounding mental illness, promote empathy, stars say

"Fear of Rain" stars Harry Connick Jr., Katherine Heigl, Madison Iseman, and Israel Broussard. | Lionsgate

“Fear of Rain,” the new psychological thriller starring Harry Connick Jr. and Katherine Heigl, seeks to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and promote greater empathy and understanding in society, according to the film’s stars and director.

From Lionsgate, “Fear of Rain” follows Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman), a teenage girl diagnosed with schizophrenia. Every day, Rain must decipher whether the disturbing images, harrowing voices, and traumatic feelings she experiences are real or conjured up in her mind. 

Against the will of her well-meaning parents (Heigl and Connick Jr.), Rain begins investigating the suspicious shadows and cries she hears from her neighbor’s attic, enlisting the help of her classmate, Caleb (Israel Broussard).

Written and directed by Castille Landon, “Fear of Rain” is both a psychological thriller and a moving drama that provides insight into a mental illness that carries a pervasive social stigma.

“There is such a stigma attached to mental illness,” Landon told The Christian Post. While there’s a “shifting toward accepting” mental illnesses like depression and bipolar, schizophrenia “is still sort of on the fringe,” she said. 

“There are so many negative portrayals of people who have schizophrenia in media and film,” she said. “I really wanted to challenge those stereotypes and leave people with the overall message that we should not just accept these ... people, but we also should lead with love and compassion.”

Words like “crazy” and “psycho” and other negative terms for those struggling with mental illness are “so ingrained” in us, Landon said, that the individual’s humanity, value, and dignity are all but lost. 

“It was really important in making the film [to show that Rain is] just a teenage girl, and you might not otherwise know, had we not told you in the film, that she has schizophrenia,” she said. “You just don't know what goes on behind closed doors with people.”

Watch Castille Landon discuss "Fear of Rain" with CP.

To bring the character of Rain to life, Iseman told CP she did a “ton of research” to fully understand the difficulties those with schizophrenia deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, she admitted it was “hard” to find resources for young women and children dealing with the illness. 

So a film that sheds a little bit of light on schizophrenia, she said, is “long overdue.”

“I’m happy this film is able to be part of the conversation and to destigmatize [mental illness],” she said. “Hopefully ... in the future, we can find more films that kind of fit this mold of normalizing psychosis and mental illness and just talk about it more and then bring it to light.”

“Fear of Rain” examines the complicated nature of mental illness. Rain’s parents, though they love her, struggle with knowing how best to handle their neurotypical daughter. Her classmates treat her with fear, while others look at her with pity. 

So when Caleb treats her with kindness and empathy, Rain becomes suspicious he might not be real. In one scene, he gently reminds her that people don’t apologize for physical ailments — and thus, she should not feel shame over her diagnosis. 

“I think most people kind of shy away or don't want to talk or think about mental illness at all, because it's something that most people don't fully understand,” Broussard shared. “I don't blame them, but at the same time, I think we need to start shedding light on what people with mental illness have to go through on a daily basis, and what their families and friends have to go through, and what life's like around them.”

Watch Israel Broussard and Madison Iseman discuss "Fear of Rain" with CP:

“Fear of Rain” is not a faith-based film; it’s rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, violence/terror, disturbing images, and some strong language. However, it touches on meaningful and positive themes including tragedy, grief and hope, repeatedly reminding audiences that everyone is worthy of love, regardless of their struggles. 

Broussard added that the film “does shed away a lot of misconceptions, a lot of stereotypes, a lot of cliches” that many people have about schizophrenia, adding that it’s “nice to be a part” of something that doesn’t poke fun at the illness, but rather encourages empathy. 

“It really is focused on bringing a sense of normality, if you will, to Rain, who's battling with this mental illness,” he said. “It’s important that a film like this is out in the world, and I hope a lot of people watch it and not only enjoy it, but I hope they take away a new understanding and hopefully a brighter perspective on what this mental illness is.”

"Fear of Rain" is set for a digital, On-Demand, and limited theatrical release on Feb. 12, followed by a Blu-ray and DVD release on Feb. 16.

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