Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Next Day

Source: Goodreads
The Next Day by Paul Peterson and Jason Gilmore. Illus by John Porcellino (Pop Sandbox Inc., 2011, 98pp.)

The Next Day is both a graphic novella and an interactive animated documentary website co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Both depict the suicide attempts of four individuals, and ask the question: “What if they had just waited one more day?” The purpose of both mediums is to raise awareness of suicide, and how to prevent it.

The graphic novel is little more than a comic strip montage. The four life stories of Jenn, Chantel, Ryan, and Tina—all who survived their suicide attempts—are interwoven together by similar themes and events, including sexual abuse by a relative, bipolar disorder, depression, and substance abuse—all in just 98 pages. This method, however, disturbs the flow of each individual’s story, and prevents us from getting a clear picture of each person’s situation.

The concept works better in the form of an interactive website because you actually hear the stories of these four people, rather than just reading about them. The interactive “experience” begins by showing us a house, very simply drawn, very spare in detail. There’s a front yard with shrubs, a swing set out front. Emotionally charged words appear on the screen, words like “fear,” “death,” “helpless,” etc. As you click on a word, the site takes you through an animated tour of the empty house. Hallways are lost in shadow, and poorly affixed wallpaper begins to deteriorate. While all this is going on, you hear about the lives of four different people, some who had happy childhoods, others who had miserable ones—but all of which follow the inevitable path to self-destruction.

The worsening of depression is depicted in the animation by the presence of a storm. As the interviewees speak of contemplating suicide, the storm begins: water rattles against the windows and shadows deepen. But, as the website reminds us, things won’t always be this bad. As this portion of the animation wraps up, we are shown a calm scene: water drips from the roof of the house onto the ground and onto the seat of the swing set. In the background, the four survivors deliver their closing comments on their life choices and what they are doing to deal with mental illness.

So skip the graphic novel, and go straight to the website. I guarantee the “experience” will be worthwhile. Recommended for mature readers.

Note: The website link won't show up until you scroll over the word “website.

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