The Caveman’s Valentine is a 2001 American mystery-drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Kasi Lemmons. The movie is based on the 1994 novel by George Dawes Green with the same title. In the film, Samuel L. Jackson plays a man named Romulus Ledbetter who is suffering from schizophrenia. This is brought to the viewers’ attention as Romulus is depicted aggressively yelling at a member of social services regarding his mental visions of angel-like moths and a mysterious figure named Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, whom he believes is controlling the world through rays emitted from the top of the Chrysler Building. Romulus lives in a cave and on Valentine’s Day finds a frozen dead body in a tree outside his residence, supplying the groundwork for the story and the origin of the film’s title.
When Romulus calls his daughter, a member of the local police force, the audience gains insight into his past. As a former pianist studying at Julliard music school, Romulus experienced a mental decline causing him to leave his studies and develop a schism with his family. Most notably, Romulus has a poor relationship with his wife who no longer associates with him. After the police treat him with a lack of credibility regarding the dead body, Romulus later crosses paths with Matthew, who claims to have had an intimate relationship with the murder victim, Scotty Gates, and blames famous photographer David Leppenraub for the incident. Matthew claims Scotty was a model for Leppenraub and reveals a tape exists proving Leppenraub’s abusive nature and guilt. In an attempt to regain his daughter’s admiration and trust, Romulus sets out to investigate this lead in order to find Scotty’s killer.
After a few failed attempts, Romulus finds a news article displaying a close relationship between a former Julliard colleague and Leppenraub. Through a phone call to his past schoolmate, he is invited to Leppenraub’s farm under the pretense Romulus is still composing music and has written a piece inspired by one of Leppenraub’s photographs. At the farm the audience is introduced to Leppenraub and his artwork, which focuses on angels, perhaps symbolic of those seen in Romulus’s head, and depicts a sense of hopelessness. The viewers are also introduced to Joey Peasley, Leppenraub’s assistant, who claims knowledge of the tape and Leppenraub’s dangerousness. Later that evening, Romulus demonstrates his excellent pianist skills by playing a piece for the audience, only to be stopped by his hallucinations. After Romulus publicly accuses Leppenraub of killing Scotty, he is thrown out of the party and thereafter, has his life threatened by several masked men. He proceeds to return to the farm in order to seek the help of Leppenraub’s sister, Moira.
Moira listens to Romulus explain what happened to him, but has her doubts and defends her brother. After spending more time together, Moira tells Romulus of her and her brother’s relationship with Scotty. She believes her brother loved Scotty and didn’t murder him. Romulus then tells Moira about the moth seraphs, Stuyvesant, and the rays Stuyvesant uses to control people. When going back to the city, he visits his daughter who gives him a ride to the cave. Upon asking for Scotty’s autopsy report, she becomes distraught and demands he leave the car. After reaching the cave, Romulus finds Matthew beaten up allegedly by masked men who are coming for him next.
This new information inspires Romulus to travel back to Leppenraub’s farm where he discovers the tape depicting Scotty being tortured. While Romulus is watching the tape, Joey comes into the room and questions Romulus about whom he is and why he is looking for the tape. Joey tells Romulus about the one time Scotty refused to do what Leppenraub wanted him to do for a photo and speculates Leppenraub is the one who murdered Scotty.
Once Romulus is back in the city, he calls Leppenraub’s office and says he has a copy of the tape and will sell it to him if he wants it. Romulus goes back to his daughter’s house and leaves her a letter urging her to believe him and to get Matthew to tell her everything. Later that night, two masked men show up at the cave and take him into the woods where they beat him up and demand the film. Finally, Romulus agrees and calls his daughter, pretending she is the man who has the tape. He asks her to bring it to the park they previously visited.
When the men and Romulus get to the park, Romulus’s daughter is there. Romulus and his daughter defend themselves against the men. A fight ensues, leaving Romulus and his daughter alive, one masked man dead, and the other having escaped. Upon going back to the police station, Romulus convinces a detective to give him the autopsy report of Scotty Gates, where he is confused by the lack of a heart branding on Scotty’s butt as described by Matthew. Romulus goes to visit Moira to see if she knows anything about the heart brand on Scotty’s butt. Moira states she knows nothing about this, but has a confession to make.
The movie jumps to Leppenraub meeting Joey on the subway. Joey proceeds to ask Leppenraub for the money. Romulus then appears and confronts Joey about his need for recognition from Leppenraub and the anger he felt when he did not receive it. Romulus accuses Joey of killing Scotty and pretending to be Scotty around Matthew. Joey denies this accusation and points to the tape, which Romulus claims has been edited to incriminate Leppenraub. Romulus accuses Joey of setting him up because he knew the police would not believe anything he said. During the argument it appears Romulus has one of his mental breakdowns. The subway stops, and Matthew gets on, identifying Joey as Scotty. Joey knows Romulus outsmarted him and pulls out a gun. Several passengers on the subway identify themselves as police officers and arrest Joey.
At the end, Romulus has a conversation with Leppenraub, in which he tells Leppenraub he knew Joey killed Scotty because Moira told Romulus she had seen a heart brand on Joey’s butt, whereas Matthew had said he saw one on Scotty’s. Later, Romulus’s daughter visits him at his cave, tells him he she is proud of him, and welcomes him to come home. However, Romulus chooses to stay at his cave.
Upon analyzing the Caveman’s Valentine, it becomes apparent Romulus Ledbetter suffers from schizophrenia. In addition, viewers are able to see both positive and negative symptoms commonly associated with this mental disease. Together, these symptoms greatly affect Romulus’s relationships and quality of life, as well as generate stigma from the public and decrease his perceived credibility.
The positive symptoms of schizophrenia displayed by Romulus include delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and disordered thoughts and speech. At the very beginning of the movie, Romulus discloses his delusion regarding Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant. Romulus believes Stuyvesant lives at the top of the Chrysler Building and controls him and others. He has this belief throughout the entire film, even when people try to persuade him otherwise. Romulus discloses this delusion that Stuyvesant is controlling his thoughts and the thoughts of those around him to people passing by on the streets. Additionally, although adults with schizophrenia rarely experience visual hallucinations, Romulus experiences visual hallucinations related to his delusion about Stuyvesant. Romulus sees light emitting from the top of the Chrysler Building at several points throughout the movie, especially when performing music. He attributes these visual hallucinations to Stuyvesant trying to control him, which leads him to discontinue his music abruptly. Furthermore, this delusion is often the root of his disorganized thoughts and speech when talking to others. This occurs during his encounters with the police, his calls to his daughter, and his visit to David Leppenraub. Lastly, Romulus suffers from visual and auditory hallucinations distinct from the rays of light. Romulus sees and hears a hallucination of a younger version of his wife, Sheila, throughout the film. At various points, his hallucination of Sheila questions his actions and thoughts, especially in regards to his relationship with his daughter. Overall, the positive symptoms Romulus experiences throughout the film provide an accurate depiction of a man suffering from schizophrenia.
In addition to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia Romulus experiences, he also experiences negative symptoms, such as isolation from family and friends and lack of proper hygiene. Schizophrenia negatively affects Romulus’s personal relationships and interactions with other individuals. Romulus chooses to live in a cave, isolating himself from his daughter and wife. Romulus’s obsession about Stuyvesant prevents his daughter from forming a meaningful relationship with her father. The film also alludes Romulus’s relationship with his wife was ruined due to his paranoid delusions. Because Romulus chooses to isolate himself in a cave, he also does not maintain adequate hygiene. Until he decides he must play a piece for Leppenraub, he lacks motivation to shower or manage his unruly hair and facial hair. In addition, he wears ragged clothing covered in filth. All in all, Romulus portrays prominent negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Positive and negative symptoms often cause people to stigmatize against individuals with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, which can affect several facets of these individuals’ lives. Stigmatization of Romulus’s mental illness negatively impacts his personal relationships and his perceived credibility. When he interrupts the dinner party of the man who lent him a suit, he expresses delusional thoughts about Stuyvesant. The man and his wife, including the other party guests, act socially distant from that point forward because his symptoms of schizophrenia make them feel confused and afraid. In addition, because his family is familiar with his delusional thinking, they are skeptical to believe he knows who killed Scotty. When Romulus calls his daughter about Scotty’s murder, she does not believe his account is real. His daughter continues to doubt Romulus’s allegations against Leppenraub throughout the film. Provided that Romulus verbalizes several delusions and appears homeless, individuals stigmatize against him. This creates social distance and causes others to discredit him, while doubting his intelligence.