Diana Ross earned a Golden Globe nomination for her heart-wrenching portrayal of Paulie Cooper, a young medical student battling paranoid schizophrenia. Her illness caused her to be institutionalised 43 times, and had a devastating effect on her family, financially as well as emotionally. A sister who was jealous of the attention she got yet sympathetic to her illness, a mother struggling to provide for her sick daughter yet aware of the friction her attention-giving was causing between the siblings and Paulie's own daughter, who struggled to deal with loving her mother yet being scared of her. After trying several medications over many years, she finally finds one that is effective. She tries to return to her medical studies but is thwarted at every turn, being told how her past exam successes no longer counted because of the 17 years that had passed, and how her diagnosis meant she wouldn't be able to cope with the stress of medical study, the long hours and wouldn't be able to afford it anyway.
When she meets the homeless mentally-disturbed black woman outside the grocery store, and hears the worker tell her to move away from the shop front, she first offers her money and then food, which the woman is too scared to take until no-one is around her. Paulie finally sees just how she used to appear to other people. She knows in that moment just how far she's come, and what life will be like if she relapses. At that point, she cries, not only for the woman but for herself.
This is incredible acting from Diana. She appears with the most minimal of make-up from beginning to end, in ordinary clothes, in effect as an ordinary person would. She's not afraid to scream, cry, fight, she's not concerned with her image except in relation to portraying Paulie honestly. You get to see her mental struggle in all its rawness. There's no glossing over the worst parts of her illness - you see her boyfriend leave when he can't accept her past, her screaming to fight and block out the auditory hallucinations, her increasing distance and public estrangement from some of her family, you see her having to accept her daughter telling her that she loves her but doesn't want to live with her because "it's too hard". But she's not the only star here. The cast has been well-selected, is very believable, and the whole production comes across as a family struggling within themselves as individuals as well as with their relationship with Paulie.
This is a very effective portrayal of how mental illness can affect a family in ways they hadn't expected, and it's to its credit that it didn't sugar-coat the hell that mental illness can be. The film is based on a true story, and is as true to mental illness as it could be.