The Girl on the Bridge Review: Pushing back the darkness

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Jazz Thornton with Producer Alex Reed on the set of The Girl On The Bridge. Photo: Heritage Films
Jazz Thornton with Producer Alex Reed on the set of The Girl On The Bridge. Photo: Heritage Films

After losing her close friend Jess to suicide 3 years ago, New Zealand film graduate Jazz Thornton felt it was important to tell Jess’s story so to give a voice to her silent struggle and provide answers to those closest to her.

This took the form of a deeply revealing web series which pieced together Jess’s battle through interviews with her family and friends focussing on the last 24 hours of her life.

Made more genuine by Jazz’s own fight against mental illness, the multi-award winning Jessica’s Tree gave insight into what suicide looks like from the victim’s perspective, looking back out at those wanting to help them.

Knowing the significance of this project, award winning New Zealand filmmaker Leanne Pooley followed Jazz as she took her web series from pitch to premiere.

After two years of filming, Pooley has produced the inspirational and deeply insightful documentary The Girl on the Bridge, available to watch from 10 October to coincide with Mental Health Week (10-17 October).

Both confronting and compelling, The Girl On The Bridge reveals the painful realities of suicide and the flawed systems that continue to enable this epidemic.

This is powerfully brought into light through personal experiences particularly that of the 22-year-old film graduate who has survived multiple suicide attempts herself.

Making it her purpose to take on a system she believes is failing her generation, Jazz balances making her series with running Voices of Hope, the mental health charity she co-founded to provide hope and change through education.

From receiving ‘goodbye’ text messages from people contemplating suicide to spending hours on the phone with mental health services trying to get them to provide help to young people in need, Jazz’s determination to help the helpless is inspirational at the very least.

One of the main concerns with the series attempt at breaking the stigma of suicide is that audiences may view it as sensationalising suicide or those who are suicidal may watch for ideas for themselves.

Through the help of producers Cass Avery and Alex Reed, along with the guidance of councillors, lawyers and people closest to Jess, Jazz successfully avoids this outcome by keeping details of suicide attempts out completely.

Pooley’s documentation of Jazz’s concern over this issue and showing the effect that these decisions have on her helps stop the misinterpretation or misuse of the series sensitive content.

The Girl on the Bridge, available to watch online and in selected cinemas across the country from 10 October, is a must-see for any parent who has young children and for anyone who either suffers from mental illness or knows of someone who is struggling.

For more information on the documentary, where you can watch it and how you can support the change, go to https://www.thegirlonthebridgefilm.com.au/

If you are in need of support or would like more information on dealing with mental health please contact CatholicCare on 13 18 19 or visit their website www.catholiccare.org/