The Real Inspiration Behind ‘Survive’: Unraveling the Connection to True Stories

Mark Pellington’s ‘Survive’ takes audiences on a gripping journey following a plane crash, where two survivors, Jane and Paul, battle the elements and their inner demons to stay alive. While the storyline is a work of fiction, the roots of the narrative delve into the realm of reality, drawing inspiration from the author Alex Morel’s experiences and the complexities of mental health.

Alex Morel’s Genesis

‘Survive’ finds its origins in Alex Morel’s novel of the same name. Morel’s exploration into the human instinct to fight and survive was sparked by a real-life story shared by a friend institutionalized in a mental health facility. The tale involved two doctors with conflicting opinions on whether the individual should walk out into the courtyard. This prompted Morel to contemplate a scenario where a person, initially set on taking their own life, is thrust into a life-or-death situation.

In an interview, Morel explained the genesis of the story, stating, “Almost all those people would fight back because the instinct to fight and survive overcomes the malaise of the depression and the suicidal tendencies.” The original confrontation with a robber was later transformed into a plane crash, setting the stage for the survival drama we know today.

Mental Health and Authenticity

While the characters of Jane and Paul are fictional, they carry the weight of real-life struggles. Jane, portrayed by Sophie Turner, draws from the actress’s own experiences with depression and anxiety. Turner, who has a history of suicidal ideation, worked diligently to ensure the authentic portrayal of Jane’s mental health journey. The character represents a composite of real individuals grappling with mental and emotional challenges.

Turner’s personal experiences allowed her to infuse honesty into Jane’s story, even editing the screenplay to ensure a genuine representation of mental illness. In interviews, she revealed, “All I had to do was more specific research to hone in on the specificities of Jane’s mental illness.”

Paul, a beacon of hope in the narrative, encapsulates the resilience and determination integral to those navigating mental health struggles. His character serves as a personification of the instinct to survive, echoing Morel’s original inspiration for the story. Paul’s infectious eagerness to escape the mountains reflects the spirit seen in individuals facing life-threatening predicaments.


‘Survive’ may be a fictional tale of survival, but its connection to real-life struggles with mental health gives it a profound authenticity. Through the characters of Jane and Paul, the narrative not only entertains but also sheds light on the strength inherent in the human spirit when faced with adversity. As audiences delve into the snow-capped mountains alongside the protagonists, they witness a story rooted in the complexities of the human experience.


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