Review of OC87


Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2012
Directed by: Bud Clayman, Scott Johnston, Glenn Holsten
Genre: Documentary/Biography

Many a documentary has focused on different medical conditions, mostly as a way of shedding light on the condition or disease. "OC87" does things a little different by shedding light on OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), then trying to show the disorder outside of the usual stereotypes that most Americans know.

The film is cowritten and codirected by Bud Clayman, who is at the center of the film. He had led a life that has been defined at every corner by OCD. He has said in interviews that this is not a film about hand washing, which is the go-to stereotype of films or TV shows featuring a character with OCD. Instead, it is about how OCD has affected his view on life and occasionally his withdrawal from any human contact.

Clayman retraces his steps since graduating from high school, where he suffered from nearly crippling depression, partially due to the fact that nobody understood what his condition was about. Add that to the fact that he also had Asperger's, a condition that sometimes causes him to act out, sometimes violently, and it was the perfect recipe for a sad high school experience. His particular type of OCD, called "harm OCD," also makes him prone to violent images and anger, which didn't help his situation.

Despite this, Clayman managed to graduate from Temple University and to move to Los Angeles, where he hoped to put his study of film and video production to good use. Instead of pursuing a career, he suffered a traumatic breakdown that culminated in him seeking treatment for a full eight years in a Pennsylvania center.

Imagine losing nearly a decade of your life to treatment. Clayman explains this to the camera but never looks for pity or sympathy. Instead, he wants to explain the magnitude of the situation, so people can see that OCD is more than just what fans of the TV show "Monk" might see in the main character, who also has OCD. He wants empathy rather than sympathy, which he earns by being unflinchingly honest about his life.

A good example is a simple visit to a local diner to eat a meal. This might not seem like a big deal, but to a person like Clayman, it is an almost monumental task. He has no idea how long it is polite to stare at a person, because his Asperger's has taken away his ability to gauge simple social cues. He also feels antsy at home about others staring at him, particularly those who are staring because they think something is wrong with him.

It is rare to be able to get into the mind of a person with a personality disorder like this, because it takes a brave person to allow such an intrusive look into his brain. That's what makes "OC87" so fascinating-Clayman doesn't mind that the audience is getting an intimate look into his mind; indeed, he encourages it. In fact, he hopes to learn from it and possibly improve his life.

The scenes where Clayman tries to improve his life are nothing less than stellar. He takes his apartment, which is surprisingly squalid, and tries to make it over. Though changing his immediate surroundings doesn't exactly change his life, the fact that he tries dating and having a night out on the town do change his life, even if they are in small ways. For someone who spent eight years in a treatment center, even small changes can be life-affirming.

The documentary mainly focuses on Clayman but is quick to point out that he is far from alone. A few public figures like a news anchor and an actor on the daytime soap opera "General Hospital" are interviewed about how they manage their conditions from day to day. This sheds light on how OCD treatment varies for each patient. There is no one miracle cure, no one pill or form of therapy that works for everyone.

Clayman comes away as a sympathetic yet tortured figure who has to fight a new uphill battle every day when he wakes up. The audience members will want to root for him to get better, even if they know he likely won't. OCD isn't about a cure, but about daily management. He may have a relapse at any time, but for today and each day documented in "OC87," Clayman is doing well. Despite his numerous setbacks, his life is a triumph of sorts, as is the documentary itself.