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Life Overtakes Me (2019)

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In the grip of trauma, hundreds of refugee children in Sweden withdraw from life's uncertainties into a coma-like illness called Resignation Syndrome.
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview:
Henry Ascher Henry Ascher ... Himself - Pediatrician and Professor, University of Gothenburg (as Henry Ascher MD)
Nadja Hatem Nadja Hatem ... Herself - Immigration Attorney
Mikael Billing Mikael Billing ... Himself - Psychologist and Psychotherapist, BUP Asylum Psychiatric Unit
Karl Sallin Karl Sallin ... Himself - Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics, Uppsala University (as Karl Sallin MD)
Elizabeth Hultcrantz Elizabeth Hultcrantz ... Herself - Professor Emerita, Linköping University (as Elizabeth Hultcrantz MD PhD)
Gellert Tamas Gellert Tamas ... Himself - Author and Journalist
Anne-Liis von Knorring Anne-Liis von Knorring ... Herself - Child Psychologist, Professor Emerita, Uppsala University (as Anne-Liis von Knorring MD)


Hundreds of refugee children in Sweden, who have fled with their families from extreme trauma, have become afflicted with 'uppgivenhetssyndrom,' or Resignation Syndrome. Facing deportation, they withdraw from the world into a coma-like state, as if frozen, for months, or even years.

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Documentary | Short


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Swedish | Ukrainian | English

Release Date:

14 June 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Life Overtakes Me See more »

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Production Co:

Stylo Films See more »
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User Reviews

Tedious use of screen time
29 December 2019 | by nehpetstephenSee all my reviews

This is a very interesting subject, and some of the photography is gorgeous (namely, the overhead shots of the snowcapped forests), but the documentarians largely squander their 39 minutes of running time, leaving too many unresolved questions for the film to feel satisfying.

Resignation Syndrome is apparently a disorder in which children who have undergone traumatic experiences retreat into a catatonic state that could last months or even years. The children awaken once stability has been achieved within the family. This disorder was not recorded until the 1990s, and it has only happened in Sweden and in Nauru (an island territory off the coast of Australia; it has not happened in mainland Australia, as the film suggests at the end). For the most part, it seems only to affect the children of refugees from the Balkans or former Soviet states. I'm not denying that the symptoms of this disorder are very real and that the effect on the families is quite painful and costly, but it seems rather obvious that this is a culture-specific illness, somehow related to ideological influence. The documentary hints at this very briefly in an ambiguous voiceover, but such details could be easily missed.

I would've preferred a documentary that more rigorously explored the medical science behind this condition, the roots and history of its existence, and its relation to other disorders of questionable biological epidemiology (like "koro" in China or the South Korean belief in "fan death"). I would've also preferred a film that more thoroughly detailed the lives and struggles of the refugees featured; we get some elusive details about death threats, but we're not even told what countries the interview subjects come from or what was going on in those countries.

Instead of either of those things, however, we get long, tedious footage of catatonic children. Girls lying in bed while a doctor uses a blood pressure cuff. A boy being bathed. Children being fed through tubes. None of that is especially resonant, at least not as the film depicts it. I empathize with the children and the families taking care of them, but this movie never quite succeeds at saying anything meaningful about their struggle.

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