Pink Skies Ahead Review – Emotional, The MTV Generation faces Mental Illness

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Pink Skies Ahead, from MTV Studio Entertainment, brings to the screen a story of mental illness and anxiety disorder as seen through the eyes of a barely 20 something who feels forced into adulthood and is totally unprepared.

The series begins in 1998, Winona, played by Jessica Barden, is attempting once again to take her driver’s test. Unfortunately, she blows a stop sign and is failed once again. Still with a learner’s permit, she is paid to chauffer her father to his office where she holds a menial admin job.

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A writer by profession, with talent recognized objectively, she feels college and the whole by the book map to success just didn’t suit her, so she dropped out of the writing program and returned home. Her parents, Robert, played by Michael McKean, and Pamela, played by Marcia Gay Harden, had thought they were empty nesters and made strategic moves before Winona returns.

So as Winona navigates her new normal her old friends Stephanie, played by Odeya Rush, and Addie, played by Rosa Salazar, are providing limited emotional support and a lot of experimental drugs. She is smoking pot, doing ecstasy, mushrooms, as well as drinking, an obvious addiction to sugar, the girl is filling herself with chemicals of every kind.

On top of her current stress, she has a history of hypochondria and is off to see her childhood pediatrician, Dr. Cotton, played by Henry Winkler, who explains it is time to seek professional help for the anxiety disorder.

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Skeptical of her doctor’s opinion, she hasn’t had a panic attack after all, Winona carries on with her wild lifestyle. Only when things begin to truly unravel around her, does she reluctantly decide to see a therapist and face her truths.

Dr. Monroe, played by Mary J. Blige, leads the panic disorder group and Winona attends and begins to believe she doesn’t really need any mental health help. Of course, just as she begins to feel better, or believes she is better, the bottom falls out.

Her parents inform her downsizing means the two of them, not the three of them; she has a panic attack at a job interview and ends up fainting; and finally her boyfriend, Ben, played by Lewis Pullman, dumps her for being undecided about her future.

She explains with clear decisiveness that she would rather walk than get into his car and walks a mile or more, without hydration, in the swamp heat of southern California. This triggers heat exhaustion which triggers a full-blown panic attack, which cascades into this unknown abyss of uncertainty, stress, and panic.

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Pink Skies Ahead deals with heavy subject matter and drug use. I wanted entertainment. And while the performances are clearly genuine and authentic, the subject matter is not entertaining.

There are great moments funny and sad. The emotional roller coaster is very present. The disappointments, feelings of lost and loneliness, and the entire unsettledness of youth.

Dealing with anxiety is challenging and it is clear without a reference point to handle the onslaught of emotional upheaval it is impossible to navigate. Many would say take some kind of drug, a prescription and it will all go away, for others drugs only sedate the problem without providing a solution.

Pink Skies Ahead will premiere on Saturday, May 8 at 9:00PM ET/PT. The commercial-free broadcast premiere on MTV is paired with a simulcast on Pop TV. 

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As part of Mental Health is Health and in recognition of the powerful role media and storytelling can play in addressing our nation’s mental health challenges, MTVE convened a coalition of leading entertainment companies and mental health experts to change mental health representation in entertainment and transform the national conversation on the issue. 


Country: USA.

Runtime: 94minutes.

Language: English.

Director: Kelly Oxford.

Writer: Kelly Oxford.

Producers: Greg Silverman, Lisa Zambri, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks and MTV Entertainment.

Executive Producers: Gideon Yu, Chris Bosco, Zac Locke, Carlos Cuscó, Emerson Machtus, Andrew Davies Gans.

Cast: Jessica Barden, Marcia Gay Harden, Michael McKean, Rosa Salazar, Lewis Pullman, Odeya Rush, Evan Rush, Henry Winkler, and Mary J. Blige.

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