Shutter Island | Movie Review

Posted by Amber Adams | Jun 21, 2017 | Miscellaneous, Reviews | 0 |

Editor’s note:

Topics: Dissociative Disorder & BiPolar. Based in a mental institution in the 90’s. 10/10 for Leo’s acting. (Cant’s believed he had to wear a bear to get an Oscar after THIS and drowning in the Titanic. Unbelievable)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen this movie, there are tons of spoilers in here, so jump over them and go to the parts about institutions today compared to the 1950’s.

Teddy is a good-looking (Duh – it’s Leo DiCaprio) US Marshall with an army background. He gets called for an investigation at Shutter Island, a home for the criminally insane on a secluded island. He and his partner are there to investigate a missing patient, Rachel Saldano. Once he is there, things get fishy, and he begins to believe he may have been lured there by the hospital staff themselves. (DUN DUN DUN)

He runs around the island with his partner like a maniac trying to uncover damning evidence. He’s convinced that this mental hospital is actually an expensive torture chamber, using mentally ill people as experiments. He believes they are keeping evidence and files from him that could break the case open).

Eventually, he learns that there is a woman claiming to be Rachel hiding out in the caves. When Teddy and his partner climb down in a storm, his partner goes missing. When he finds the woman, she tells him that he has been drugged with psychotropics in his food and drinks. She has also (somehow) built a fire in the cave. Not relevant, just impressive. #GirlScout

The US Marshall, Teddy, begins looking for Chuck which leads him to a shifty-looking lighthouse that he has been incessantly warned about going to. He sets Dr. Cawley’s car on fire as a distraction – using a damn tie in the gas tank. So badass.

He scales the lighthouse, takes out a guard, steals his gun and takes over the lighthouse. When he gets there- it’s mostly empty. In fact, when he gets to the top he finds Dr. Cawley, the Chief of Staff, just sitting at a desk ominously expecting him.


He tells him that he’s in an experiment. He is actually a patient that suffers from delusions, and they have given him drugs to help him live out his fantasy in his mind, in hopes that this acting experiment would cure him. Dr. Cawley informs him that he is Andrew Laeddis. He’s convinced they’re “playing a game” with him and demands to know where his missing partner is.

Then *BAM* his partner Chuck walks in and reveals himself to be Dr. Sheehan- his primary psychiatrist for the last 24 months. This is when you’re like “WHATTT!?!?!?”

It turns out that he was experiencing the impact of a Delusional Disorder. In real life, his bipolar wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) had drowned their three kids. When he came home and retrieved them from the water she came over and kissed him, called them “their little dolls now” and asked him to “Set her free” – so he shot her. Which isn’t where I thought that was going…

The trauma triggered a delusional alternate reality in him, which he implemented as a coping mechanism. That’s how he got to Shutter Island.

Dr. Cawley starts showing him his file containing his wife and dead children- and he snaps out his delusion.

He accepts reality and explains that he is culpable. Dr. Cawley reminds him that he was cured nine months ago but had a relapse – which Teddy insists he doesn’t remember (obviously). They believe that he is cured due to this extreme experiment and is now allowed to go home.

BUT the final scene involves him talking to his Psychiatrist as he’s waiting for his discharge. Dr. Sheehan asks him how he’s doing, and Andrew responds as his paranoid character Teddy, exhibiting a delusional relapse- preventing him from release. Instead, the Chief of Staff comes to detain him again. They take him off to a mystery ending which could be death, lobotomy or isolation.


Shutter Island is based in 1954, which had snake-pit mental institutions, experimental treatments and a large marginalization of people with mental health. The island metaphorically outlines the (very obvious) divide between society and the mentally ill at that time. This setting for mental health would be my absolute nightmare. In fact, given that ecosystem, I would have had to experience a complete mental breakdown before I’d even consider help. That setting alone would have exacerbated my symptoms rather than improve them. However, the systems weren’t conducive to casual diagnosis and treatment at the time – unlike today.

These days you can walk into a mental health emergency room (ex. CAMH) and walk out with a set of therapy appointments, rather than a diagnosis or being detained.

In my experience, it’s actually really hard to get diagnosed or treatment unless you can afford private care, or you are exhibiting urgent symptoms. I had to have an absolute breakdown before I received any help at all with my mental health after seven years of trying to access affordable treatment, preventatively.

Detainment is largely reserved for the most dramatic of cases. In fact, they’re really picky about who they can connect with free services or detain because there are limited spots and they are terribly underfunded considering the demand. (But mental health walk-in clinics are coming soon!)

What I have found helpful on my mental wellness journey is the abundance of new resources cropping up. There are online therapy resources now to remove the stigma and get you urgent care (, support groups on Meetup (even for Social Anxiety!), and online websites like Massive Phobia to help people locate resources and get help BEFORE they have a breakdown or become institutionalized.

This movie helps to demonstrate the stark contrast in society’s mental health approach since the 50’s. I wouldn’t recommend it for its accurate “mental health” depictions (it’s definitely Hollywood) or the symptoms associated with each of the illnesses that are portrayed- but I do recommend it as a Hollywood Movie!!

This post was created with the help of Grammarly.

Photo Credit by Wiggle Butts Photography

About The Author

Amber Adams

Amber Adams is a reformed bad bitch. After an epic meltdown shortly after college (there may have been an arrest involved...) she read "Think and Grow Rich" and decided to pivot into the Corporate world.After quitting three jobs by throwing chairs at coworkers, she was diagnosed with Manic Depression and is now living a happy and healthy life sitting on chairs instead of throwing them.She is a self-help junkie who uses humor to cope with her three drastically different sisters, her girlfriend and life in general. Amber is still definitely from an Auto City, but she also backpacked Thailand for a month once - so she has an enlightened vibe about her. But maybe that's just the meds.

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