When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it's "all in her head." Determined to live, she turns her camera on herself and her community, a hidden world of millions confined to their homes and bedrooms by ME, commonly called chronic fatigue syndrome.
Compelling human drama - love story, medical documentary, work of advocacy
Jen Brea started making this film while she was bedbound with a terrible - and terribly misunderstood - illness. It took her three years or more, but the finished product is very polished and emotionally devastating - while also offering notes of hope and uplift. The film follows Brea and other patients as they struggle to find sympathetic doctors and caring family members. Jen's story is the main throughline - she hits a low point after doctors tell her she has 'conversion disorder,' and then she begins to find meaning by connecting with other patients online. We see her formulate the idea for a film as she begins talking with other patients. It is a heavy film about a neglected illness - but there are moments of levity and joy sprinkled throughout. At the screening I went to, the audience laughed at appropriate spots. And at the end, a women in the audience stood up and said she finally understood what had been wrong with her for so many years. Getting this film out to medical professionals will help fill the gaps left by medical schools, which do not teach very much, if anything, about the illness known as myalgic encephalomyelitis. The CDC renamed in chronic fatigue syndrome in the 1980's, but as you'll see in the film, that name has done a lot of damage in terms of misperceptions and stigma.
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