Does Your Soul Have a Cold?

Another Silverdocs selection, Mike Mills’ Does Your Soul Have a Cold? tracks the lives of five Japanese twenty- and thirtysomethings on mood-stabilizing drugs. Depression has become a theme for Mills, who directed 2005’s disappointing narrative film Thumbsucker. Thankfully, the documentary form prevents Mills from indulging in the sort of preciousness that afflicted his first film, and he manages to sketch out engaging and complicated character studies. While I had hoped that Does Your Soul Have a Cold? would spend more time talking about how GlaxoSmithKline and other drug companies basically introduced the concept of depression to mainstream Japan (the title is taken from the first Japanese ad campaign for antidepressants), Mills chose to go in a more personal direction. These in-depth profiles, taken together, illustrate the effects of mood stabilizing drugs on a nation that up until recently seemed to have no use for them. Though the film moves slowly, its nuanced and sensitive character studies kept my attention throughout. Does Your Soul Have a Cold? raises important questions about the social construction of depression versus individual, lived realities, as well as the power of pharmaceutical companies and other multinational corporations to shape global culture.

Here’s an interview on the film with Mike Mills from SXSW 2007: