Joker has been one of the most interesting movies for a long time, simply due to the polarising response from audiences and critics, as well as its overwhelming popularity come awards season. Surely nobody expected a movie about the infamous Batman villain and directed by the guy who did The Hangover to be one of the years most exciting topics?

Well, one person who did not expect it is the director himself, Todd Phillips, who has been discussing the positive response from fans regarding the movie's depiction of mental health issues.

"What I didn't have the benefit of knowing then was really how that mental illness through-line would affect people. I had so many people come up to me, write me emails or write on Instagram, about you know, 'I have a sister who is schizophrenic and I watched your film and I realized I need to be more patient with her. I need to be more understanding.' Some people will ask if I feel vindicated by the box office ... but honest to God, it was never about that. We wanted to make something meaningful."

Phillips has stated that this has been the subject matter that he has been approached about the most, something which clearly came as quite a surprise to him. When he set out to make Joker, he wanted to make a movie about "the power of kindness" in a society that he feels is lacking in empathy. Of course, he had no idea that movie's portrayal of mental health would emerge as the most important to people, and since the release of Joker it sounds like he has been inundated with positive feedback for how the movie tackles this difficult topic.

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The movie though has been quite divisive and was surrounded in controversy upon its release over the movie's depiction of violence. Some have felt that the movie creates empathy for the more toxic side of humanity, but Phillips prefers to see this as a reflection of what is going on in society around us.

"Movies tend to be a mirror, they hold up a reflection of what's going on in society. And I do think sometimes when you hold that mirror up, people don't always like what they see. It's been this weird Rorschach test. Both sides see it as an indictment of the other side."

In any case, Joker has been an absolute phenomenon, and if it has helped people who might be struggling, then surely that can only be a good thing. It has certainly been a good thing for headline star Joaquin Phoenix who to date has won a Golden Globe, Golden Globe, SAG and Critics' Choice Award for playing Arthur Fleck, and is the current favourite to take home the Academy Award for Best Actor. This comes to us courtesy of The Wrap.

Jon Fuge at Movieweb
Jon Fuge