Lila’s Weekly Film Review: Three

Three, by Karen Hua, follows the daily lives of three college students, as they battle obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and an eating disorder. The young woman struggling with OCD is a tap dancer, and the sounds of her tap dancing are incorporated into the film, setting the tone. The film begins with the lone rhythmic tapping of her foot, and by the end has grown louder and more frantic, accompanied by brooding piano music, building suspense. As the tap dancing intensifies, so do the lives of the students in the film.

One aspect I found especially interesting and effective from Three was the choice to have a man play the character with the eating disorder. I think it’s a common misconception that having an eating disorder is a struggle faced solely by women. It seems likely that this false belief stems from the fact that so much media is geared towards making women strive to be thin (i.e. extreme photoshopping in magazines, typically only having thin runway models, the constant advertisement of new diets and weight loss products, etc). However, I think that people might not be aware that eating disorders are usually not simply about body image. In Three, the character’s struggle with his eating habits seems to stem from a need for control and the all-consuming stress of his studies.

College can be an extremely stressful time. The amount of pressure that is put onto students and that we put onto ourselves can have detrimental health effects, both mental and physical. This is only made worse by the finals culture of spending 24+ hours in the library, over-caffeinating ourselves and pulling all-nighters to pass our classes. By the end of my senior year, I was utterly exhausted and thinking to myself college should not be this bad for my health. Three serves as an important reminder of how prevalent mental health issues are among students, and how it is crucial that the campus have a multitude of resources to accommodate them.

Three also makes me think of how easy it is to feel lost among such a vast population of students, to get caught up in your own life, and to not think twice about what might be going on with the people around you. The other day, my friend and I were talking about anxiety, and she said “I mean, if you had severe anxiety, I’d know, right?” That stuck with me, because I think that’s another common misconception: if someone is struggling, we will see it. Even if someone lets you in and opens up to you, be mindful that there always might be more that you are not seeing. This reminded me of the woman in Three dealing with social anxiety, who has to put on a brave face just to make it down the hallways at school each day. Never underestimate people’s ability to mask what they are feeling.

The ending of Three left me feeling unsure. A part of me felt happy to see the three students all wind up sitting next to each other and exchanging smiles. Another part of me felt sad, because it’s likely that that was the extent of the interaction, and that they might continue on, unaware that they are not alone in the mental health challenges they face.

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