Critics’ Picks: Suicide boys

"Boy Interrupted" tells the story of an emotionally unstable kid whose parents loved him -- but it wasn't enough

Topics: Documentaries, HBO, Critics' Picks, Mental Illness, Our Picks, Movies, TV, Suicide,

Critics' Picks: Suicide boysEvan Perry in "Boy Interrupted."

HBO’s “Boy Interrupted,” premieres  Monday, Aug. 3, at 9 p.m.

This documentary is the stuff of nightmares for any parent: Evan Scott Perry started talking about suicide in kindergarden. He was obsessed with jumping out a window. “Put him in his room for a time out, it’s like Keith Moon in a hotel room,” says his dad of the impossibility of disciplining him. “He lacked emotional shock absorbers,” reports his older half-brother, Nick. Cobbled together from extensive footage that ranges from hysterically funny to heartbreaking, 2009 Sundance film “Boy Interrupted” tells the story of a precocious but emotionally unstable kid who had all the support and encouragement in the world but still managed to slip from his parents’ grasp, killing himself at the age of 15.

Created by his filmmaker parents, Dana and Hart Perry, “Boy Interrupted” is a depressing film, but it’s also a smart, thoughtful and informative glimpse at a short life that sheds light on how tough it can be to recognize and effectively treat a kid. Most of all, the Perrys’ documentary demonstrates that the biggest obstacle for parents is often a teenager’s insistence on appearing normal and fine when he or she is a mess inside. Getting at the truth and providing a welcoming sounding board for your kid, as painful as that process can be, begins to look like the most important goal for the parents of any teenager.

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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