I was talking with one of my movie friends (a guy I actually met when I was a teenager and he was managing the movie theatre in UTC), and he was talking about how much he loves documentaries these days. I agreed, and was surprised when he mentioned how much he liked a documentary he saw a few months ago on Netflix. As a critic who sees most movies released, even ones I missed at the end of the year when the studios send me DVDs or online screener links, this was one that slipped under my radar. So I gave it a view.
First, it’s best that you see this documentary knowing as little as possible about it. So when it comes to the point where I give things away, I’ll let you know.
Alex Lewis was a teenage lad in the UK, when at 18, he was in a motorcycle accident that left him in a coma for months. Upon waking, he had amnesia. It’s strange because, this same friend that recommended the documentary, once had me in stitches 25 years ago, when he ranted about things you see in movies that never happen in real life. One of them was people sinking in quicksand. The other was people having amnesia, so either a rom-com or serious drama, can be done around that premise (the best use of that coming to mind, is Christopher Nolan’s first film — Memento).
The only person Alex remembers is his twin brother Marcus. Now, he doesn’t remember anything about Marcus, just that it’s his brother. He asks who the woman sitting next to his bed is. That’s mum.
The amnesia was so bad, Marcus was basically taking his brother around the house, showing him what a TV set was, a bowl of cereal, how to tie his shoes, everything. Alex admitted to feeling awkward being in the car with a woman he didn’t know anything about. Marcus would show him pictures of their family vacations. At this point, I immediately thought of “Stories We Tell” from 9 years ago, about an actress/director who did a documentary on her own life, and the secrets her mom kept.
As a documentary, the recreations done here (which was one of the controversial things Sarah Polley did in Stories We Tell) worked, because there weren’t many of them and it kept this from being just two talking heads telling their story. They were just a bit redundant with them. We see the motorcycle crash three different times. A few times we see a fire pit with flames, outside their estate. A few times we see teenage boys sleeping in beds near each other. And even the interview segments…we get lots of getting up to walk away from the camera because of something that’s painful, or grabbing for a glass of water. Both my wife and I also thought it didn’t need to be an hour and a half, when this story could have been told in 30 minutes. It wanted to really build up the suspense, and…it was a great story when you hear the rest of it.
And at this point of the review, I’ll tell you that I’d give this 2 ½ stars out of 5. My wife 1 ½ stars, and she was really bored in the first half.
SPOILER ALERTS IF YOU CONTINUE HERE
It’s interesting to see how Alex had to meet up with his friends at a pub, and has no clue who they are. Yet not enough is delved into regarding that, just that Marcus would sometimes coach him before they show up at a friend’s house, so they wouldn’t know he had no clue who any of them were.
While they make a cute joke that with his girlfriend he “lost my virginity twice, to the same girl,” we don’t find out whatever happened with her, or if she or any of his friends, did what Marcus did — helped him with stories about his past that he can’t remember.
It’s nice that these two seem pretty well adjusted for having a crazy childhood, but we only know they both have wives, and two kids, and “run businesses.” Surely the filmmaker could have given us a bit more about their current lives. Especially when the stuff we find out about their childhood, while very interesting, doesn’t completely carry an hour and 30 minute long documentary.
It’s interesting to think whether, if someone wakes up not remembering anything…and you can just tell them the good things about their childhood and not the bad…would you? After seeing this with your spouse, it might be like the going back in time and killing baby Hitler debate.
This is a flawed documentary, but it’s such an interesting story (based on the book the brothers wrote a few years back). I mean…it’s one thing if they merely had a dad who physically abused them, but when it seems like there was some large pedophile ring with rich people…you’re left with an awful lot of questions. There are photographs of these parties. Can authorities look into things the way they have with Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein? There are surely more victims out there, and some famous names (one artist is being mentioned as “famous”).
Some might find the conclusion a bit exploitive, but I found their discussion and embrace powerful and heartwarming, and it seemed like perhaps the filmmaker was like a therapist (which I don’t think either of them are seeing).
Perhaps I was a bit tougher on this because I thought of how powerful the documentary Three Identical Strangers was a few years ago (if you haven’t seen that, watch it).
2 ½ stars out of 5.