Home » Lifeblood Pre(View): A Psychological Neo Noir?

Lifeblood Pre(View): A Psychological Neo Noir?

“Lifeblood” is only three episodes in at the time of this writing, but it has the depth and complexity of the human body’s various systems which function both separately and on their own. Written and directed by Akiva Vita. This humorous yet serious take on mental health is something the 2019 “Joker” movie tried to do, with its take on the state of mental health industry, but failed in the actual story itself. The additional trappings of this psychological neo noir combined with mental health makes “Lifeblood” more than a story about a small college town. A town where “there is definitely nothing strange going on.”

Psychological Professions and Noir Voice Over

Akiva being part of the mental health provider scene and having knowledge of the industry gives her a leg up on similar stories tackling similar issues. In the commentary for episode 1, she says that most people conflate social workers, therapists, and counselors as interchangeable professions. You can mix and match your education ad experience with jobs in the mental health profession and get accepted for any of those three jobs. Once you’re in the industry, however that changes. “They make a big stink about making sure you say you’re the correct thing you went to school for,” Akiva says in episode one’s commentary.

The quips of narration from Hugo “Huey” Matthews are used in a way that makes them feel a bit too unique. They also happen a bit too frequently that they begin to lose their impact. This can be good or bad, depending on your threshold for near constant joking which is a staple of noir in the modern day. it’s very hard to take noir seriously, both as a genre and with its now outdated subject matter. You’re not going too see a lot of noir stories that aren’t poking fun at the genre with snarky witticisms from the detective.

The Language of Noir and Sociological Psychology

When the narration is done well, you don’t expect the response you get. It keeps the individual on their toes. For example, in episode one, you’d expect the line “If you’re listening to this I’m probably dead.” Instead you get something more concrete. “If you’re listening to this, I’m probably wearing cement shoes…” Pun not intended but liked nevertheless.

Rian Johnson’s 2005 film “Brick” is a close contender for a story with similar tones. “Lifeblood” starts out in a flashback when Hugo and his friend Jackie Adler are sneaking in somewhere. The tone for this prologue of sorts feels very much like a high school television drama a la the CW minus the overabundance of teenage angst. In the grand scheme of things, the first part of the story is relatively short. It introduces Hugo, Jackie and Frank Elwood. The latter of which is CEO of an up and coming mental health treatment center. Three characters with three very different personalities.

After the “waking up from a dream” trope happens to transition us from the past to the present, the tone shifts from something like a middle grade book to one with a young adult aesthetic with adult themes. Adult meaning mature. On paper, this might seem strange. Having the high school set dream sequence at the beginning and making it feel like a middle grade short story. Why not have them match up. Young adult with the prologue and forgo the middle grade demographic entirely?

Initial Final Thoughts

With its fourth episode dropping today, “Lifeblood” is starting off strong. Then again, I’ve listened to, or read, many stories with awesome beginnings and lukewarm or bad endings. No idea how many episodes there will be, but I’ll have more to say once the show is complete.

Thus far, this audio drama is a 9/10