For this column, I’m going to speak about the new “Joker” movie. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, stop reading this now. I’ll try to be as vague as possible, but I can’t promise that I won’t let something slip.

I saw “Joker” on Saturday. To be honest, I expected to watch two hours of a guy feeling like a victim turn into a murderous clown. It turned out, the movie wasn’t that simple. Instead, the movie was deeply about mental health, which is exactly why I think it is in the running for one of my favorite movies of all time.

“Joker” follows Arthur Fleck, a man who is trying to become a stand-up comedian, who is struggling with life, and who eventually, as we all know, becomes the Joker. Without giving too many details away, Arthur is beaten, bullied, ridiculed, and tormented rigorously throughout the movie. Just when you think something good is about to happen to him, about four bad things happen (and I mean really bad, life-altering things).

“Batman: The Killing Joke” author Alan Moore wrote arguably the most famous Joker quote of all time – “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.” This quote does not apply to this movie. “Joker” was about more than just “one bad day” for Arthur.

When Arthur begs for help, he is answered with coldness. When he literally tells people he wants to die or that he’s having strange thoughts or that he’s hurt people, he is ignored. At one point, the government even cuts funding for the little help that Arthur is receiving. He is then left without the ability to even take his medication. Perhaps one of the scenes that hit me the hardest was when Arthur was falling apart and begged for “some warmth” from others.

A trailer was released about a month or so prior to the film release that showed Arthur speaking to his therapist. What he said, which was also shown in the movie, really struck me. He told her that she wasn’t listening to him. She heard him speak but she wasn’t paying attention. He told her that his life felt meaningless and that he felt invisible, yet she provided no real help. This cry for help is one that we are all told to look out for to help prevent suicides in real life. In his journal, Arthur writes, “The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Wow… If you’ve suffered from mental illness, you understand how hard that quote hits home.

The movie was depressing. There is really no joy to be felt when leaving the movie theatre. While there were a few people laughing during my showing, I didn’t find a single thing funny about it, and I don’t think the writers wrote any part of it to be intentionally funny.

For the first time in the over 15 years that I have loved DC Comics, I felt sorry for the Joker. To me, the Joker has always just been the “crazy clown” villain of Batman. He’s had several backstories, but nothing ever like this. This movie put a human behind the face of the most recognized comic book villain of all time, and I pitied him, because there are so many like him that are begging for help each day, but never get it. Like Arthur’s blatant cries for help, many in real life go unheard as well.

Of course, in this movie the main character resorts to violence, but for over 120 Americans a day, the answer is suicide. What I think made “Joker” “outrageous” for several people and critics was that it hit too close to home for a lot of us. It was very real. While fictional and set in the ’80s, “Joker” made it feel like I was looking at the face of modern-day America.

Mental Health funding is constantly under attack in America. I’m a firm believer that ALL people deserve to receive both physical and mental healthcare without worrying how they will pay their bills or if they can even afford to reach out for help to begin with. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults live with a mental health issue. Less than half of those with mental health issues receive services.

In the past few months, some were worried that “Joker” might inspire someone to commit violence. Listen, violent people are going to be violent regardless of a movie. I don’t for a single second believe that movies or video games inspire violence, but they do have the power to open up dialogue, and right now, that’s exactly what “Joker” is doing. I haven’t heard this much conversation about mental health since Logic played 1-800-273-8255 on the Grammys. “Joker” has made us talk about something that is difficult, and believe me, watching parts of that movie was really hard. My heart broke for Arthur knowing that there are people out there just like him that simply and desperately need a helping hand.

I know this movie is fictional, but there are people right now dealing with the kind of pain that Arthur was dealing with. I truly believe that all it takes is one person to make a difference in another person’s life. If “Joker” inspires anything, I hope it inspires people to be kinder, to listen to those who are struggling, and to speak out when someone makes a threat, whether it be against themselves or against others. People who kill themselves and people who kill others don’t just snap. Those signs are there and we all need to be better listeners.