I compare this documentary to a heart-wrenching poem.
Lyrical in its imagery, disturbing in its story line, “God Knows Where I Am” traces the last days of Linda Bishop, who died alone in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse during a harsh, record-setting winter. More than anything, this is a study of one person’s struggle with mental illness and the family which, by turns, was supportive and frustrated with her.
“God Knows Where I Am” is a revelation, allowing the viewer to learn more about Linda day after day, hour after hour, not only through her journal but also through interviews with the owners of the farmhouse, her sister and her daughter, as well as court records and those were involved with Linda after she became part of a system of court appearances, physicians and medication.
The beginning of the movie, and its images, are simple, pure and gentle. The film doesn’t begin to surprise, and then stun, until Linda’s mindset is revealed, page after page, in a diary she keeps every day.
How did Linda, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, end up in the house, and how did she survive for as long as she did? Although her journal indicates domestic violence was the cause of her demise, the truth is far more shattering and tragic.
Linda’s actual words, taken from the pages of the journal, are read engagingly by Lori Singer (yes, the Lori Singer from the original “Footloose” movie.) They reflect the confusion, the wonder, the determination and the spirituality of Linda’s mind.
We learn how frustrated Linda leaves her daughter and her sister, and even the courts and support services, and how real her delusions seemed – so real they keep her on the run from imaginary enemies and always hopeful a man on whom she is fixated may come to her rescue.
How do you survive alone in structure that isn’t yours? Linda eats apples — pretty much her entire diet — she harvests under cover of darkness. You’ll be surprised at how she manages with a heating system that somehow wasn’t turned off.
Even though we know “the end,” or at least what happened to Linda, each scene builds suspense while we learn more and more about what led to a tragedy. Always, the film respects Linda and everyone around her.
Anyone who has experienced mental illness, or whose loved one has experienced mental illness, will appreciate the honesty of this often-beautiful, always-tragic film. It doesn’t judge its subject; rather, it allows her to write her autobiography, and let the viewer sympathize with every twist and turn.