Daniele, a twentysomething suffering psychotic episodes, is forced to spend a week in a mental hospital in this new Italian series on Netflix
After a night of wild partying, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, Daniele (Federico Cesari), a very sensitive twentysomething, passes out on his bed. Upon waking, he is extremely bewildered to find himself in a psychiatric facility. “Why am I here? This place is full of crazy people,” he shouts at his doctor after meeting his roommates: one with severe bipolar disorder who tries to seduce him, a primary school teacher who experiences hallucinations, a young man who constantly calls upon the Virgin Mary, and another who does not respond to stimuli. He will soon discover he has suffered a psychotic break and will go on to find that the seven days of involuntary committal that at first seems like a jail sentence will turn out to deliver the greatest lesson of his life. This is the premise of Everything Calls for Salvation, an Italian series recently released on Netflix that tackles the mental health problems of the newer generations.
Although the existential angst of the young has been the subject of various series and movies, especially in recent years, Everything Calls for Salvation has a very unique tone, almost tragicomic, drawn from the Italian tradition of bittersweet comedies. The topics covered are heavy ones, of course, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room to laugh at what comes out of the mouths of this group of dysfunctional friends. Furthermore, these episodes show it’s not only the patients who need to be “saved”, but also the very doctors and nurses who are attending them and who are stifled by a system lacking the resources to treat psychiatric patients. Ditto for the patients’ families, who seem largely at a loss to know how to help their children or siblings.
The series has seven episodes, one for each day that Daniele spends in the hospital. Amid so much insanity as well as discovery, there’s not only room for friendship, camaraderie and respect, but also for romantic love. Or the closest thing to it that can arise between two patients from different psychiatric wings. That’s why, although the reality portrayed takes some unexpectedly heartbreaking turns, in the end there is always room for hope.
True to life
The authenticity reflected in this work of fiction, directed by Francesco Bruni (Easy!), didn’t simply emerge from the minds of the screenwriters. This Italian series is an adaptation of the novel “Everything Calls for Salvation”by Daniele Mencarelli, published in 2020, which is based on the life of the author, who himself turned to drugs and alcohol after learning of the health problems of one of his childhood friends, who had been top of his class. Perhaps that’s why the journey the protagonist makes in the series, from denial to understanding and acceptance, seems so realistic.
Or perhaps it’s because the protagonist, actor Federico Cesari (Skam Italia), a medical student, decided to visit a psychiatric center in order to better put himself into the shoes of his character, though entering as a visitor is never quite the same as doing so as a patient. It does serve, as does Everything Calls for Salvation, to make it easier to empathize with problems from which none of us are truly immune.