Movie Review: I Am Breathing

By Stephen Rebello

<p>The Documentary <i>I Am Breathing</i> is a stirring, beautiful act of defiance.<br></p>

Directors: Emma Davie, Morag McKinnon Rating: NR Studio: SDI Productions Stars: Neil Platt

This simple, stunning 72-minute documentary is a soul-stirring testament to an architect, loving husband, new dad and all-around good guy named Neil Platt. You know that belief so many of us cling to when we’re very young? Our whole lives stretch out ahead of us. Life, opportunities, friendships, love and health are ours for the taking. Nothing can stop us. Terrible things happen to other people.

At age 33, the acerbic, funny hell-raiser Platt, not famous, not celebrated, had been married a few years to his pretty college girlfriend. His career was going nicely and he and his wife were enjoying being the parents of an adorable year-old son. Then, doctors told Platt that some distressing physical symptoms he was experiencing were early indicators of a fatal disease that within in the next five months would destroy his ability to move his body, to talk or even breathe without a respirator. The villain of the piece is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS. It’s the same disease that killed ballplayer Lou Gehrig in 1941 and has been destroying lives since the 1800s; it strikes about 5,600 people in the United States alone.

The unsentimental, life-affirming and profoundly moving film, directed by Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon, lets us bear witness to a lovely man and his family dealing gracefully and heroically with the very bad hand they’ve been dealt by that disease. The film gains incredible power from being told in Platt’s own voice, through the use of old video footage of him prediagnosis and through his blog entries. Knowing that the disease is hereditary, most haunting of all are the moments Platt shares with his young son. The film is a stirring, beautiful act of defiance.


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