Turtles All The Way Down: An Inside Look At A Protagonist With OCD

Turtles All The Way Down - Isabela Merced and Cree
Turtles All The Way Down - Isabela Merced and Cree /

It is rare to see a teen movie protagonist with OCD. While there have been quirky or anxious leads, none have embodied the realities and relatability that follow the struggles of OCD quite like Isabela Merced's portrayal of Aza in MAX's adaptation of John Green's Turtles All The Way Down.

It does not take long to get an understanding of what the audience is stepping into, as fairly quickly into the movie, viewers are greeted to a voice-over of Aza's spiraling thoughts surrounding bacteria, c-diff, and the irrepressible urge to replace the bandaid on her finger.

For those familiar with spiraling thoughts such as Aza's, even if they are not about the topic, listening to the way her worrisome thoughts just keep going may cause a light chuckle or two due to familiarity, but not because it is any way funny. Instead, Turtles All The Way Down makes a point that while Aza's thought-process may be relatable, it is also very much not a comical matter.

This movie touches on the troubling aspects of what OCD can mean, not just for the person dealing with it, but how it can impact their relationships with their friends and family.

Aza's mother is concerned about whether Aza can actually leave the house to go to college elsewhere and start preparing their garage to be the next step in Aza's growth to individual freedom, rather than believing she can succeed at an out-of-state college.

Daisy, the movie's main comic relief, can not understand the way Aza's brain works and the inability Aza has to put a halt to her spiraling thoughts. So, instead, Daisy's responses come from frustration and annoyance surrounding her perspective that her best friend is selfish, too trapped in her own head, and fears to know anything about Daisy's life.

Aza and Daisy's eventual argument, birthed out of two very distinctly opposing perspectives on Aza's struggles with OCD help ground the movie in what it can mean to simultaneously love someone and not understand them.

Turtles All The Way Down understands that the overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and urges that come from OCD do not just stop simply because the person wants them to, and if not dealt with, can become a particularly dangerous state of mind that could result in serious repercussions, such as Aza's reaction to being stuck at the hospital.

Isabela Merced's performance is heartbreaking as a person who wants to stand on her own but struggles to get out of her own way because of something out of her control.

Turtles All The Way Down also recognizes another factor, which is that no matter how much Aza may improve with therapy and medication, that does not mean this is an automatically fixed situation and she is not ready for things such as serious romantic relationships.

While Aza may be ready one day for such a sense of intimacy, and there is no doubt she will have a beautiful future, there may still be hiccups along the way, but none that she can not reach the other side of.

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