For her directorial debut, Stella Hopkins zeroed in on a pretty impressive star: her own husband, Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins. That casting only seems fitting for something as close to her heart as “Elyse,” a drama that the Colombian filmmaker said was inspired by her own family life.
Per the film’s official synopsis: “The drama follows the titular character (Lisa Pepper) who, in a psychotic blackout, commits vehicular manslaughter of her son and his nanny. Memory and hallucination intertwine to expose a history of trauma, revealing the truth: Elyse is catatonic and institutionalized in a State Hospital. Her recovery is reliant on the dissolution of her marriage, the restoration of the relationship with her mother, and a mutual absolution with the nanny’s daughter, Carmen. It’s the care from Dr. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) and the unconditional love from her nurse, David, that promise Elyse a new life.”
The filmmaker may have based the deeply personal drama on experiences she’s had with her own family, but she also sought to combine that element with storytelling that could speak to even those who have not had their own encounters with mental illness. She told IndieWire that “the most challenging component of the subject matter was being mindful to appropriately convey the clinical complexities of mental illness. It was rewarding to reference deeply personal and painful history in a creative narrative.” She said she also drew inspiration from other films about mental illness, including John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence” and Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.”
“Elyse” comes with another personal edge for the first-time filmmaker, as it not only stars Hopkins’ husband in a key role, but Sir Anthony also composed the film’s score, marking only his fourth composing project (the Oscar-winning actor has also directed three of his own films, including “Slipstream” and “August,” for both of which he also composed scores). The filmmaker said, “Directing my husband is one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The music score that he composed for the film beautifully conveys the melancholia that sits deep in the soul of Elyse.”
Check out the first trailer and poster for “Elyse,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below. Gravitas Ventures will release the film on VOD and in theaters on Friday, December 4.