Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the A Mouthful of Air cast and crew for a Q&A on the new Stage 6 movie which was released on October 29, 2021. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Finn Wittrock, Jennifer Carpenter, Michael Gaston, with Amy Irving and Paul Giamatti, it is directed by Amy Koppelman, who is also author of the book by the same name.
A Mouthful of Air is no lighthearted movie for a date night, but a heavy movie that delves deep into a problem that is often brushed under the rug: postpartum depression, or PPD. It’s a movie that covers situations that we don’t talk about enough, and it’s a movie that needed to be made.
Postpartum depression is experienced by almost 40% of women who give birth, and almost half of those women’s partners will end up experiencing depression as well. A Mouthful of Air is an honest, candid and often uncomfortable portrayal providing us an inside look at what PPD is like for both the mother and her spouse/partner.
Amanda plays Julie, a loving young mother of a toddler, prone to episodes of intense fear over doing the wrong things for her baby. She loves him so much, yet is terrified she will do something wrong. She’s a book author and illustrator, thinking in bright colors and symbols, getting a story of strength out to young kids by way of her book’s main character, Pinky Tinkerbink….yet she can’t quite truly master it in her own life.
There’s a secret in her past that has shaped her future, but it’s not really fully unfolded in the movie. Her husband is focused on helping Julie, yet she’s unable to completely communicate just where she’s at, and while she does see a doctor who is helping them both to move forward, it’s clear that the PPD is taking its toll.
Without any movie spoilers, A Mouthful of Air is about a husband trying to give his wife everything she wants while still saving herself, and that’s a tall order with the devastating PPD weighing in on every move. As they decide to move forward with another baby, despite the doctor’s suggestion they don’t do it, the young couple faces new challenges that may result in lifelong consequences.
The A Mouthful of Air cast and crew worked on this movie through the pandemic, and much of the emotive feel is due to the colorization, or lack thereof, of the scenes. One striking change is the feel of Julie’s bright, safe apartment, and the tone of the rest of the scenes. There aren’t a lot of people or scenery changes in the movie, and that isn’t just a result of filming limitations, but per Amy Koppleman as director, it’s a way to add to the depth of the movie in a way that words just won’t do.
Amy experienced PPD 26 years ago when she gave birth to her first child, a son. She was able to get help, but she learned so much during that time and wanted to help turn that into a story that could help others seek the help they need, as well as the understanding. There’s a stigma attached to PPD that needs to go away, because as Amy says, PPD is often related to in such a way as to be seen as emo and dark eyeliner, but there’s a serious dichotomy there. PPD isn’t something to be ashamed of, but something to be dealt with as we would any other medical condition.
Julie’s character sees all the beauty in the world yet still felt the world would be better off without her. Amanda explained how mental health is still stigmatized, and people still aren’t talking about it. It’s not even yet recognized at the federal level as something that is that common, yet with these numbers, it should be. It shouldn’t take a movie to drive home the point that more needs to be done, yet maybe A Mouthful of Air will contribute to positive change. The whole Mouthful of Air cast does a wonderful job in their roles.
One thing that really stuck out for me in this Mouthful of Air cast Q&A was the situation that the partner finds him/herself in. They are essentially “prisoners,” as Amy put it, always trying to be there yet afraid to be the one to say something that may insight the mom to “call it a day.” The partner is always trying to get a feel for how things are, which is a difficult position to be in, illustrating how postpartum depression is not something that just the mom deals with. Husbands aren’t given the grace needed while their wife is going through this, because the wife has much bigger demons to fight while the husband’s trying to be a present father as well as mom’s biggest supporter, and it’s exhausting.
I personally had no experienced with PPD in any of my pregnancies, and I know how absolutely fortunate I am. I have four children (after seven pregnancies) and each one presented its own challenges, but never any depression beyond the doubt in my own skills that comes from being so tired while wanting to be the absolute best. We moms are harder on ourselves than we need to be, and that in itself is exhausting, and this movie isn’t about that yet explores motherhood in a way that even those of us without depression can relate.
Dr. Harvey Karp, a renowned pediatrician and founder/CEO of Happiest Baby, also had a lot to say about PPD, which would be a whole blog post on its own. He was informative yet encouraging, because there is help out there. One thing is the SNOO they’ve created, an innovative baby bed that quickly boosts infant sleep by using womb-like sensations (motion, sound, swaddling). Because lack of sleep contributes to depression, the SNOO helps by allowing the infant to get more sleep, which in turn helps mom and dad get more sleep. (My fourth child could have used one of these!) You can read more about that at the Happiest Baby website!
A Mouthful of Air is in theaters now, and will eventually be released to stream online. Until you see it, here’s a trailer to this heartfelt movie.