Short Film Review: The Last Day of Freedom

Doing the right thing.

This Oscar nominated documentary short is about the case of Manny Babbitt, a Vietnam vet who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia upon returning from his tour a duty. What he was not diagnosed with was post traumatic stress disorder, had he been, things may have been different. Manny, in a confused state beat a woman named Leah Schendel to death. His brother Bill, our interviewee (in animated form) found something in Manny's belongings tying him to the murder that was in the papers. Bill tells us how he turned Manny in and had the impression the trial was going to go a certain way due to his mental illness, but was proven wrong.

This is a quick watch on Netflix Instant, but the profound sadness this film generates in its 30 minute run time extends beyond that. Mental illness has such a stigma in the United States. People who have it don't get help, people who don't have it try to use it to their advantages. This case is just sad all around. Sad that Leah Schendel, a 76 year old woman died scared and alone. Sad that Manny wasn't given the medication he needed that would've likely helped him so he wouldn't have had to turn to a life of drugs and stealing.

In the title cards at the end of the film, it tells how Manny's lawyer was drunk during the trial, and how he barely tried to fight the death penalty charge. The one that even the police officers at the station didn't think they would give him. This film makes you think, even though they can't get all the information about the trial into the run time. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "He said you're already forgiven." - Bill Babbitt 


  1. This is very sad and you are so right about mental illness. Even the term "mental" bothers me because it is a brain disease. The brain is an organ just like the heart or kidney but it rules our every movement in life especially our emotional state. we know so little about how the brain functions and due to society, we have a hard time knowing how to deal with the illnesses because many people keep things hidden from family and friends if they have a relative with a brain disease. Whatever trauma befalls a person they need to be looked at and treated seriously before anyone is hurt.


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