Movie Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The unit that stood out to me the most in this class was the second week on mental health. The movie that I chose for this review is called, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” In a short nutshell, this movie is about a man named Randle McMurphy who gets transferred from a prison farm to a mental institution where Nurse Ratched rules all the male patients. Nurse Ratched is a stern nurse that cares more about using medication, abuse, and electroconvulsive therapy to calm the patients, than treating their overall health. McMurphy comes into the ward to all the patients looking like zombies and walking around with no spirit. Throughout the movie, he goes out of his way to bring the men out of their shells and they start to rebel against Ratched and not look at her as being so powerful anymore. McMurphy aided in helping the patients overall happiness by getting Chief to talk after ten years, stole a bus and took the patients on a boat to fish, gives the guys alcohol, and teaches them how to have fun and be as normal as possible. In the end, McMurphy brewed up courage in the men but also started mischief with the nurse and started strangling her. He was then taken away from the ward and when he was brought back at night, he was an unresponsive vegetable and had stitches on the sides of his head, which means they had lobotomized his brain. The chief and McMurphy had planned to escape before that event happened, so the chief suffocated him with a pillow to let him die with dignity and escaped from the ward while he broke a window and ran away off to Canada.

I think the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is spot on in regards to what was learned in the mental health unit and different peoples explanatory models. The entire movie was focused around the main character, Randle McMurphy, coming into the psych ward as a new patient where he violated rules to do fun things and lift the other patient’s spirits up. He worked with all of them together but also a few of them separately, aiding in their own individual needs. This was a huge thing we learned about, how important it is to look at each person separately, understand his or her explanatory model, and then diagnose and treat. The movie was an inside look at how patients in a mental hospital were most likely treated in the 1970s, around when the movie was released.

The number one thing that stood out the most throughout the movie was the treatment of the patients. Nurse Ratched would hold group discussions and intentionally exploit and bring forth anger in the patients. This led to hostility and some outrages, which she then ordered them to take more medicine or have electroconvulsive therapy. I thought this was horrible, they treated the men like they weren’t human with all types of abuse. It is important to look at each patient’s illness individually and treat it from there, not just drug them to make them act like zombies. This is a huge controversial aspect, how doctors treat patients with the most suitable drug and not look at their background or listen to their problems, which may be the main source of their illness. In this movie, it took the viewer through the ugly truth behind treating an illness instead of treating a patient.

This movie would be very beneficial to add to the course because it gives background on how critical it is to treat each patient like they are an actual human and not like they are defined by their illness. As McMurphy says in the movie, they are no different than the rest of the crazies on the streets. One watches the movie and right in front of their eyes, they see the drastic change in each patient’s mood when McMurphy interacts with them and brings them back to life. He improves their actual mental health, while the nurses and hospital just suppress symptoms and confrontation. This goes with many concepts covered in the course, especially patient doctor interaction. This movie ties in very closely with what was learned about ones explanatory model. Because most of the individuals at the mental hospital had different diagnoses, each person saw themselves and the world differently. As said in The Illness Narratives, “…All too frequently the voice of medicine drowns out the voice of the life world, often in ways that seem disrespectful, even intolerant, or the patient’s perspective” (Kleinman). For example, in the movie they would have time to sit in a circle and talk about what they were feeling. Except Nurse Ratched would intestinally provoke an emotional outrage by the patients which led to her demanding they needed more meds and more electric shock therapy- cruel treatment. Vulnerable and doctors and nurses took advantage of that power. Nurse Ratched did the opposite of taking ones explanatory model into perspective, using her power and authority over her vulnerable patients. This movie also has to do with structural violence. A mental hospital is a political structure that in this movie, condemned unequal and poor treatment of people who were seen as inferior. People with power are the ones who are critical and significant in helping everyone. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, shows how this power is abused and used in the wrong way. For example in the movie, the patients all had a night of drinking and having fun and got in trouble the next day for it. Nurse Ratched started to mock one of the boys saying he was going to tell his mother what he did, which then led to that patient committing suicide. As said in lecture, who benefits and who suffers, “who had power or authority…what inequalities are present” (Lecture 5.1). This goes to show how much say and power something has with authority and when it is used in a negative way, it will lead to negative outcomes.

Kleinman, Arthur. “The Illness Narratives.” Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition (n.d.): n. pag. Basic Books. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.



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