The Morning Guy, (Gray, 2003) directed, produced and written by Mark W. Gray, is a short film depicting the bitter end of a marriage in the matter of minutes. From a first outside glance of the couple’s home, nothing seems adrift. Their cookie-cuter bungalow, average car and proudly displayed American flag imply a sense of normalcy, though this first impression is quickly proven a misconception when the dreaded morning alarm clock goes off. From there, the female character reveals an inability to cope with the husband character’s unique behaviour.
The man relentlessly acts as a morning radio broadcast, integrating it into his daily routine. Throughout the short film, close-ups are utilized not only to bring greater meaning to the objects showcased but for the overall message of mental illness in daily life as well. This is done through a close up of the alarm clock, the toothbrush and the cup coffee. In the sixth scene, a tilt shot captures a picture frame of a married couple and an alarm clock in a close up.
To begin, though seemingly mundane, these two objects are essential to the plot and foreshadow the following narrative. The picture frame introduces both main characters to the audience as a happily married couple. The camera movement chosen to showcase this frame is a tilt, filming from top to bottom, therefore implying a joyful beginning and a slow descent into dysphoria. Furthermore, the tilt ending on the alarm clock is important to note because it foreshadows that the clock, symbolic of the male character’s behaviour, is the cause of their marriage ending.
Secondly, the lighting Mise-en-scAne brings the viewer’s attention to the alarm clock time. A glimmer of light hits the clock to showcase the changing time, from 6:59 AM to 7:00 AM, and thus forcing the viewer to catch this key detail. Thirdly, in relation to the time changing, the close up of the clock allows for a sudden change of tone when analyzed in relation to the non-diegetic sounds. The non-diegetic, peaceful morning music ends as soon as the clock strikes 7:00, thus implying a sudden change in atmosphere; sleeping peacefully versus waking up.
After the absence of music, a radio broadcaster blares through the clock. It is later revealed that the voice is not coming from the radio, but from the male character. Because the voice is accompanied by a typical news jingle and seemingly emerges from the radio, it implies that sound is diegetic, though because the voice is of the man in the room, it would be impossible for his voice to be accompanied by a radio jingle. This proves that the man believes himself to be a radio broadcaster and therefore hints towards mental illness.
Schizophrenia is defined by the Canadian Mental Health Association as “a mental illness that affects the way you understand and interact with the world around you ( ¦) may start to experience problems concentrating, thinking or communicating clearly, or taking part in their usual activities. At the height of the episode, people may experience breaks from reality called psychosis. These could be hallucinations (sensations, like voices, that aren’t real) and delusions (strong beliefs that aren’t true, like the belief that they have superpowers). _ and through the male character’s belief that he is truly a broadcaster, it can be perceived as a mild case of psychosis.
This is further supported by the next object close up, the toothbrush. To commence, the close up of the toothbrush is significant for the greater message of the short film because it supports the pattern of a schizophrenic episode. In the shot preceding the close up of the toothbrush, the male character continues his morning monologue, oblivious to how enraged the female character becomes as a result.
He is so immersed that he completely ignores her as she storms out of the bathroom and continues as if nothing occurred, thus proving that he is living in his own fictional world. Secondly, the shots leading up to the extreme close up of the toothbrush are quick cuts between the woman brushing her teeth and him talking to himself in the background. The woman is obviously ignoring his commentary, though there is a cut to a close up of him monologuing, therefore supporting the argument that he is talking to himself and thus suffering from a mental illness.
Lastly, the diegetic sound in the extreme close up of the toothbrush is further proof that the greater meaning is mental illness in daily life because of how it is integrated into the actions of the male character. As the man brushes his teeth, he imagines it to be more than just a mundane activity; that it is an emergency broadcast. As he brushes his teeth, a loud beep is heard over the sound of the electric toothbrush, thus implying that this is the sound he hears when he brushes his teeth and is therefore imagining himself in an alternate reality.
The last object close up that supports the greater message of mental illness is the close up of the cup of coffee during the last few scenes. Preceding this scene is the woman’s quick departure from their home; the narrative thus proving the man has a mental illness. She screams at him, writes him a note and takes off her wedding ring, though the man continues to chatter through it all, evidently ignoring reality to escape into whatever alternate world he’s imagined for himself.
He refuses to break from his alter-ego, never once stopping to talk to her about the current situation. Furthermore, the transition shot to the cup of coffee is a cross dissolves while the other transitions are predominantly cuts. This implies that this particular close up is an incredibly important one because it is the only scene in which the man faces the harsh reality of his wife leaving him. Lastly, this particular shot is a very important one in that the first few shot were of coffee brewing.
One of these shots was of the coffee perk and of two cups, side by side, though by putting emphasis on this last shot, the filmmaker is implying that there will only be one cup of coffee from that point on and thus creating causality within the beginning and the end through this last close up. To conclude, though presented in a comedic tone, the subject matter of the short film is much darker than that: mental illness destroying a marriage. For the greater message to be transmitted, the filmmaker directed the attention of the viewers to the most important moments of the film through close ups of objects.
These objects being in virtually every North-American household, the filmmaker was thus able to immerse his audience into the life of someone living with mental illness in context of their own lives. By acting out mundane activities such as waking up, brushing teeth and having breakfast with a person who suffers from an evident case of mental illness, the filmmaker was able to show, if only a glimpse, of what it is like to live with mental illness.