JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Under Our Skin (Director/Producer: Andy Abrahams Wilson) - September 16, 2012
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Under Our Skin

4 4
104 min.

First, do no harm

One of the many ironies of the land of the free and the home of the brave is that its budget’s biggest expense category is designed to keep the homeland safe (and pulverize its enemies, perceived or real), followed by the combined accounts of Medicare and Medicaid; social security comes next followed by a relatively distant amount to service the debt.

Imagine the difference on the balance sheet if America and the rest of the world could all get along with one another. Within its own borders, the notion of one for all and all for one must give every citizen the comfort of national pride and camaraderie. However, when some of its population and their rebellious professional advisors opt to swim against the stream (and collective wisdom—just ask them) of the establishment, then, like a country under attack for spurious reasons, the weak and innocent are equally at risk of suffering cruel fates as those trying to eke out an existence in faraway countries who have been hijacked by political and economic interests over the right to live in peace.

Spurred on by personal interest, filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson has quite literally put chronic Lyme disease under the microscope and produced a searing indictment of the current state of economics (largely the insurance companies) and politics (most notably the Infectious Disease Society of America whose panel of experts weighing in that the chronic manifestation of the disease is just in patients’ heads all the while making a mockery of conflict of interest rules through related patents and industry funding going to themselves or their hallowed institutions) that results in practitioners losing their licences and patients dying or facing a miserable existence.

Largely told through the stories of those affected and their loved ones, the cumulative tales paint a sorry picture of this tick-driven, apparent epidemic. On numerous occasions wise medical men (curiously no women) opine that patients have no one to blame but themselves for complaining of fake symptoms (fatigue, neurological disorders, loss of speech and vision, constrained mobility, personality shifts, et cetera). Rather than believing such expert opinions were made in 2008, viewers might well expect the “cure” of shock therapy treatments as the next step to turn these demented souls around just as homosexuals were zapped back to normalcy ‘lo those many years ago (cross-reference below). Not appearing to be ill—so similar for People Living With Acquired Brain Injury—is a special challenge for production staff member Dana Walsh who fears total collapse following the conclusion of her current U2 tour where she endures near-constant pain while savouring the ever-popular music.

Particularly disturbing are the children. One young man quite rightly likens his infection to Dracula feeding on his veins and leaving behind spirochete organisms to begin their deadly work. Another courageously states his desire to be “normal” before breaking down into tears. The infected adults are also extremely candid and open, allowing the camera (or sharing very private home movies) to reveal first-hand the ravages of this incurable—it seems—malady.

A lone scientist, Dr. Alan MacDonald, is seen leading the quest evidentiary proof from a laboratory in his basement. There can be no stronger image of the uphill battle his findings will have when not incubated by department heads along with PhD candidates—all in white coats—and located in an Ivy League research centre.

Completely at one with the subject matter is Justin Melland’s original score. The orchestration is generally light, letting the much “heavier” situations drive the film. Particularly effective are minimalist triplets (especially from the harp) where the repetition over and over again is exactly how those desperately looking for answers to a singular question must feel.

A viewing of Wilson’s exposé by those on all sides of the debate and the unsuspecting public who may finally begin to understand their relentless aches and pains is hereby prescribed. JWR

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Director/Producer - Andy Abrahams Wilson
Cinematography - Andy Abrahams Wilson
Original Music - Justin Melland
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