Life & Culture

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F***! review: Debunking the self-help culture

Life-affirming documentary feature from director Nathan Price, based on Mark Manson’s bestselling book, is a good watch, especially for young adults


The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F***!
Cert: 15 | ★★★✩✩

The human experience with all its highs, lows and in-betweens is explored in this life-affirming documentary feature from director Nathan Price. Based on Mark Manson’s bestselling book of the same name, it follows the author as he reflects on the traumatic events that led him to write his book.

Growing up just outside Austin Texas, Manson had a fairly happy childhood until his parents’ marriage started to fall apart. Finding solace in heavy metal music, Mark rebelled against a strict middle-class upbringing by doing all the things he wasn’t supposed to be doing.

His rebellious streak ended when he was caught with drugs in his school locker, which resulted in him being arrested and then heavily reprimanded by his parents. Mark developed social anxiety and depression that went on to consume his early adulthood.

Speaking to camera in between frequent dramatic reenactments, Manson rages against the modern self-help industry’s obsession with success, happiness and wealth, which he says created what he calls “delusional positivity”.

Manson sees this as the cause of all our modern ailments. At the heart of his philosophy is a desire to embrace everything life throws at us.

From the loss of loved ones to monumental defeats and repeated heartbreaks, the author is convinced that surrendering to one’s destiny is the most heroic thing one is able to achieve in life.

While I have very little doubt that Mason’s philosophy on screen is likely to prove as, if not more, helpful than his best-selling tome, there is something about Price’s film that just feels too stunted to fully function as a bona fide adaptation of the book.

Moreover, by choosing to have Manson — as charming and as likeable as he is — as the sole talking head, I fear he might have missed the chance to come up with something more challenging.

There is just enough here to make this a very good watch, especially for young adults struggling to navigate a world full of misinformation and social media induced angst.
If it helps just one person, then it was worthwhile.

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