Turtles All the Way Down: A Film That Dares To Explore Mental Illness With Humour And Heart

by Tara Price

21st February, 2024

Turtles All the Way Down: A Film That Dares to Explore Mental Illness with Humour and Heart

HBO Max’s latest addition, Turtles All the Way Down, is a film adaptation of John Green’s novel of the same name. The film follows Aza Holmes, a teenager who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as she tries to solve a mystery involving a fugitive billionaire. Along the way, she reconnects with her childhood crush, Davis, and faces questions about love, friendship, and hope.

How the Film Stays True to the Book

John Green, the author of the novel, is also an executive producer of the film. He has expressed his satisfaction and gratitude for the adaptation, saying, “This movie is everything I wanted the book to be. It’s funny and human and explores mental illness in a deep and raw way without ever romanticising or sensationalising the experience.”

The film also retains the novel’s structure and style, using Aza’s narration and inner monologue to convey her thoughts and feelings. The film also incorporates some of the novel’s symbols and motifs, such as the spiral, the tuatara, and the titular phrase “turtles all the way down.”

How the Film Brings the Characters to Life


The film features a talented cast of young actors who bring the characters to life. Isabela Merced from Madame Web (within Sony’s Spider-Man Universe) plays Aza, capturing her vulnerability and resilience. Cree Cicchino and Felix Mallard play Aza’s friends, Daisy and Davis, adding depth and dimension to their roles. The film also features Judy Reyes as Aza’s mother, J. Smith-Cameron as Davis’s therapist, and Poorna Jagannathan as Aza’s psychiatrist.

The director of the film, Hannah Marks, has a personal connection to the story, as she also suffers from OCD. She says, “I relate to the character of Aza deeply. I’m honoured to be a part of bringing this story to life, and I loved every minute of working with these fantastic young actors.”

How the Film Tackles Mental Health Issues

One of the most remarkable aspects of the film is how it tackles mental health issues with humour and heart. The film does not shy away from showing the challenges and realities of living with OCD, such as the intrusive thoughts, the compulsive behaviours, and the anxiety. The film also shows how OCD affects Aza’s relationships with her family and friends, as well as her self-esteem and identity.

However, the film also balances the seriousness of the topic with moments of comedy, warmth, and hope. The film shows how Aza copes with her condition with the help of therapy, medication, and support. The film also shows how Aza finds joy and meaning in her hobbies, such as reading, writing, and art. The film also celebrates Aza’s courage and strength as she learns to accept herself and embrace her potential.

Why You Should Watch the Film

Turtles All the Way Down is a conversation starter and a source of comfort and inspiration. The film invites you to empathise with Aza and others who face mental health challenges and to understand their perspectives and experiences. The film also encourages you to reflect on your own mental health and well-being and to seek help if you need it.

Whether you are a fan of John Green’s novel or a newcomer to the story, Turtles All the Way Down is a film that will resonate with you, offering a glimpse into a world where the struggles are real, but so is the hope.

Turtles All the Way Down is available on HBO Max this spring. Don’t miss this film that dares to explore mental illness with humour and heart.

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