Dirty Filthy Love, a BBC television movie directed by Adrian Shergold and co-written by Jeff Pope and Ian Puleston-Davies is a superbly played portrayal of life with faulty brain wiring. It is billed by some as a comedy, but that is a misnomer. In our daily negotiations with spouses, roommates and bosses, there are funny moments and ridiculous interactions and these are seen in the film. But the script doesn't play out for laughs, and the humor arises from the natural foibles of being human. Underneath it all, there is a painful, sad fact: perfectly intelligent, good people have brains that don't work right. It is important to watch this film-- if only to remind us that mental illness is nothing more or less than brain disorders that can treated.
Suffering from a failing marriage, Mark (brilliantly portrayed by Michael Sheen) is awakening to the realization that his day to day rituals are ruling his life. As his anxieties grow, he suffers from increasingly debilitating OCD and tourette. Writer Puleston-Davies, who has OCD and mild Tourette, draws from his own experience: Mark goes to the doctor and says he has his severe depression narrowed down to "three things: meningitis, early senile dementia or a brain tumour." In real life, Puleston-Davies's doctor diagnosed the OCD, and helped him get cognitive behavior therapy. In the film, Mark is simply prescribed and dismissed with anti-depressants. His saving grace comes from co-patient Charlotte (played by the absolutely delicious Shirely Henderson), who educates him, and us, by putting a name to Mark's disorders, and leading him through a weekly support group.
This is an engaging film, one that deals with mental and physical challenges that are both uncomfortable and painful. Sheen's perfect rendition of Tourette-- ticing that is raw, unseemly, and underscores how well he knows his craft--and OCD are uncanny. The only thing I found disturbing, however, was the portrayal of tourette as an ever-evolving disorder. In this film, the tourette seemed to come on only after his life was crumbling. In actuality, tourette manifests in early age--roughly about 7 years old or so--the same as when Mark discovered his OCD while playing ball with his mates. It rarely first manifests in adulthood, and it doesn't evolve from one extreme form to another. The initial ticing (his wife asks "what is wrong with your throat" as if she never heard it before) is the extent of tourette for many people. He then goes through copraphagia (only a minority of people with Tourette have this), barking, mimicking--the entire gamut. Whether this is for dramatic effect or to somehow show the full extent and severity of Tourette----it still isn't true to the syndrome.
Many famous and successful people have OCD--David Beckham, Justin Timberlake, the movie's author. Their lives are like this movie--not purely comedy, not totally drama, and not fully a love story. Rather, this is a cautionary tale that if you win the genetic lottery of misfiring brain neurons, it takes genuine compassion and diligence to survive.