LOS ANGELES, March 13 (UPI) -- Juno Temple hopes her new movie, Lost Transmissions, encourages conversations about mental illness. She plays Hannah, an aspiring singer coping with depression, who witnesses her friend, Theo (Simon Pegg), stop taking his medication for paranoid schizophrenia.
"It's actually a subject I'm very interested in learning about," Temple told UPI in a phone interview. "I think it's such an important conversation to learn about it."
Theo encourages Hannah to stop taking her depression medication, and she has success without it. Without his medication, however, Theo lapses into psychotic episodes.
"Knowledge is the only way that we're going to be able to help people with anything, whether it's figuring out if you've got the flu or just a common cold, or whether it's figuring out if you've got paranoid schizophrenia or depression," Temple said.
"I think they're conversations that need to be [had]," Temple said. "They make it less frightening for people to go through it when people are actually open to talking about it."
Hannah volunteers to monitor Theo and make sure he takes his medication. She learns that she can't control his condition or his cooperation, but she can help him in another way. Temple hopes viewers respond to that message.
"I just really relate to having this empathy for somebody that's going through something," Temple said. "You just wish you could make it better, but you can't. You can't save people. You can only love them. I think that's a hard lesson that humans learn."
Temple suggested that caring for Theo may be a crutch Hannah is using to replace her own medication.
"I think also it becomes a new kind of medication for her for a while," Temple said. "It's something that she can put her energy into, but also she cares so much and she wants to make sure he's safe."
Hannah's struggle with depression affected Temple, too. She revealed she had occasionally taken medication to help with anxiety and also hopes portraying Hannah's struggle makes viewers feel less alone.
"I love my job so much because you learn that you're really not the only one going through a lot of things," Temple said.
Hannah had been taking the medication she was prescribed most of her life. She never questioned it. So the film represents a woman learning about mental illness from the inside, and witnessing Theo's struggle with a different condition.
"I think the interesting thing about Hannah is she's learning about mental illness throughout the entire film," Temple said. "It's something that she's not aware of to begin with, and it's something that she kind of goes through in real time with him."
Both Hannah and Theo quit their medication without consulting a doctor. Temple also hopes Lost Transmissions can be a cautionary tale about that.
"Coming off something like that instantaneously without a doctor's watchful eye is quite dangerous," Temple said. "You can get flu-like symptoms, but it can also make you feel really quite unhinged."
The experience also teaches Hannah about the healthcare system. Even when Theo is arrested and committed to institutional care, authorities can't hold him more than 72 hours involuntarily.
"It's easier to get prescribed Prozac if you're feeling a little bit wobbly than it is to get somebody who's a paranoid schizophrenic actually on their medication," Temple said. "That idea to me is just mind-blowing that it's not easier to do that. It baffles me."
Since Hannah is a singer, Temple had to learn to sing for scenes in which Hannah lays down vocal tracks. Vocal coach Stephanie Williams helped train her.
"She was so patient and helpful with me, especially reaching some higher notes that my voice doesn't really love to go to unless it's pushed there," Temple said. "We worked together throughout the shoot."
Temple noticed her own progress from take to take. She admits she started out apprehensive and had to loosen up.
"You can hear it in the first two takes. I would be taxed and I wouldn't stretch my voice and I'd get nervous," Temple said. "Especially if there were a lot of very musically talented people around, which makes me even more self-conscious."
Theo pushes Hannah to sing and embark on a songwriting career. Experiencing his breakdown also makes her afraid to lose him.
"He might be the first person in a long time to actually think that her voice has something in it," Temple said. "Or, that she has something inside of her that is worth releasing. So that becomes a fear factor. Can I do it without him?"
Lost Transmissions is in theaters in New York and L.A. and available on demand.