Hot Docs 2013: My Thoughts on NCR: Not Criminally Responsible

NCR_Not_Criminally_Responsible When someone is accused of a crime as heinous as attempted murder, it is understandable to jump to conclusions and assume that the person is a monster.  However, what if the person was mentally ill and had no control over his actions?  Such people are declared “Not Criminally Responsible” for their crimes and sent to a psychiatric institution.  NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, directed by award winning director John Kastner, takes a look at one of these individuals and ponders whether he’ll ever be allowed to fully reintegrate into society. In the late 1990s, Sean Clifton randomly stabbed a girl outside of a Wallmart in Cornwall, Ontario.  He was deemed not to have the mental capacity to consciously commit the crime, so he is declared NCR and sent to the Brockville Forensic Psychiatric hospital, where he has remained for twelve years.  Today, Clifton is slowly trying to reintegrate into the community and hopes that he will one made receive a discharge from the review board. Sean Clifton is a man of deep regret for the terrible act he committed.  He is diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and paranoid schizophrenia and Clifton has to take anti-psychotic medication for the rest of his life, otherwise he might regress back into a violent state.  The supposed motive for the crime came from a dislike for women that emerged due to a lack of romantic success, which caused him to seek out a random woman to harm.  The state of his schizophrenia caused Clifton to be completely aware of his actions, yet he had no power to stop himself. The film also features the victim Julie, who is shown in the film partially hidden.  Even though she has managed to move on with her life, she is still quite afraid of Sean Clifton.  Since he truly feels regret for the crime, one of the main arcs of the film is Clifton’s attempts to write a letter of apology to Julie and her family. The film is definitely a quite interesting look into metal illness and how it affects people.  Sean Clifton comes off as almost catatonic and, even before the crime, it was always obvious to the people around him that there was something wrong.  The film features a few re-enactments, acted out by Clifton himself, about how life for him was was like, both before and after the crime.  Even though he committed a very horrible act, it is very easy to sympathize with Clifton and understand that he had no control of his actions when the crime occurred. The film also focuses somewhat on Clifton’s roommate Will Bilow, who suffers from a delusional disorder, which results in him denying that he even has a mental illness.  Even though the film as a whole is played quite seriously, Clifton’s interactions with Will can be seen as humorous, as both take jabs at their situations.  While Sean Clifton is the main focus of the film, there is an effort made to keep track of Will’s progress as well. Overall, the film is trying to make the point that mentally ill people, who did bad things, are still good people and that we should not give up on them.  Sean Clifton hasn’t committed any violent acts in the twelve years since the crime and he is still waiting for the moment when he can fully be reintegrated into society.  The film is quite successful at showing someone like Clifton as a man and not a monster and it shows that, when it comes to mental illness, everything is not black and white. 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).