You know how the D.A.R.E. program tried desperately to keep kids off drugs, but most GenXers and Millenials have tried drugs at least once, anyway? Well, that’s because D.A.R.E never showed us this movie. Requiem for a Dream is labeled as a psychological drama but is easily one of the most horrifying films that audiences have ever seen. Scared Straight! had absolutely nothing on this harrowing tale of the black hole that is drug addiction. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem for a Dream follows four people’s very different entrances into the world of drugs and addictions, and how addiction shapes their lives in uniquely tragic ways.
Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) and his best friend, Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans), dream of becoming big time drug dealers. But they’re both addicts, and the primary rule of the drug trade is to never get high on your own supply. The two are struggling financially to the point of routinely robbing Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), in order to feed their heroin habit. Harry’s widowed mother is lonely and worries constantly about her only son running the streets. Her only solace to be found in chatting with her girlfriends while awaiting the mailman every afternoon, and in watching television in the evening. Because of Harry’s theft, as well as his neglect of his mother, Sara is forced to buy back her inanimate companion almost weekly.
When Harry and Tyrone decide to get serious about dealing, they give it their best shot, and things go smoothly at first, but when Tyrone is arrested, and the bulk of their earnings goes toward his bail, things become desperate. In addition to feeding their own habits, Harry must also worry about his uptown girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly) who’s an addict as well, and has recently been cut off by her wealthy parents. Though from very different backgrounds, Harry and Marion are in love, a love which seems to be fueled by the common bond of their raging addiction.
When Sara gets a phone call informing her that she has a spot on her favourite game show, she excitedly wait for her invitation in the mail. But her cherished red dress no longer fits, and after dieting fails and Sara goes to her doctor for help, she heads down the road of addiction herself, in the form of amphetamines. Sara’s story highlights many ethical issues in the medical community, issues which (in her case) are reinforced by ageism. Sara’s doctor barely listens to her concerns when she voices her worries that the pills are having a negative affect on her, and doesn’t even both to look at her during any of her appointments. Alone and being mismanaged by a trusted medical profession, Sara spirals into amphetamine-based psychosis and becomes manic.
As Harry and Tyrone experience a string of bad luck, which leaves them desperate, so desperate that Harry suggests that Marion ask her former therapist, who’s infatuated with her, for help, and later pushes her to seek help getting drugs from a pimp (Keith David). While he and Tyrone drive down to Miami to get drugs from a wholesaler, Marion enters into the world of sex work and secures herself both money and an ample supply of drugs even as years of heroin use finally catch up to Harry in the form of an infection from using dirty needles.
Though Harry, Tyrone, Sara, and Marion’s drug habits seemed to stem form different places, at its core, addiction is a disease of loneliness, and these four people were in over their heads as a result of trying to quiet the insecurities and block the trauma in their heads. With a brilliant cast, amazing cinematography, and a deeply haunting score, Requiem for a Dream is a horror, an everyday horror that millions of people are experiencing, a much-needed reminder that addiction is complicated, that addicts are more than their illness, and that if we do not seize control of our lives, they will control us.
I give this one 4.5 stars.