Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"You are not you" - A poignant portrayal of ALS

"You are not you" - A poignant portrayal of ALS
One of the most difficult things to acknowledge and accept with stoic equanimity is to watch a young, talented and vibrant individual reduced to a vegetative state by a disease. Death in any form seems cruel to us, but when is afflicts somebody young - paralyzing, debilitating and decaying the human body from within - then the pain of it for the victim and for those who care for them becomes unbearable. Life suddenly transforms itself into something cruel and heartless; and all vestiges of faith and hope tend to diminish - and what remains is an intense state of skepticism and a deep mistrust of life.
ALS is one such disease. With its cause virtually unknown, and cure almost impossible - its victims suffer from a condition that can only be termed as tragic. Muscles atrophy, breathing becomes progressively difficult, vocal chords give way to incoherent speech; the fine balance between the brain and bodily organs slowly degenerates into an uncoordinated symphony - pushing the individual into completely dependent existence, taking away every sense of bodily freedom available. But ironically and cruelly, it keeps the mind intact. The intellectual, emotional faculties are left untouched, unimpaired - as though, life wished to play a cruel joke upon its own creation - watching it with sadistic pleasure withering to waste under its own steady gaze; smothering all ambitions, aspirations and expectations . There is nothing one can do, but to wait for those final moments when pain will reach its consummation in death, with just a little solace that may possibly be acquired from holding on to a last ray of hope that life after this pain may after all still hold promise of a resurrection, a regeneration. But that is only a desperate hope., a tedious consolation for the immense pain that one has to bear in the present.
The film "You are not you" is a poignant portrayal of an ALS victim. Kate (played by Hilary Swank) is a brilliant pianist, married to a corporate lawyer and leading a comfortable life; until she realizes the slow onset of ALS. Her hands twitch, grip fails, her usually nimble fingers that effortlessly caresses piano keys suddenly seem out of sync with musical notes she has in mind. And from then on, it is a steady road to degenerative dependence. Bec (played the beautiful Emmy Rossum) is hired as her care-giver. An aspiring singer, college drop-out, wayward and directionless in life - she finds in Kate the meaning of life, conviction and courage. In fact, both of them find transformative experiences in each other. Kate finds renewed solace in life that is so perilously close to death; and Bec begins to live life to her true potential watching the stubborn confidence and resolution of Kate.Their relationship is mutually complementary, fulfilling and beautiful.
The story, direction and treatment of this sensitive subject may seem clich├ęd; but for me, a movie is defined by the understanding its actors have of their roles and its significance. An average predictable story can be elevated to sublime levels of artistry if its protagonists are well chosen, and they know what to do.. And that exactly is the case with this film. Hilary Swank as Kate has pulled almost an impossible exhibition of what it is to be a victim of ALS. As one watches her steady confident self slowly succumbing to the travails of this disease, her entire body writhing with pain, losing coherence day by day - Ms. Swank manages to carry us along into her precipitous descent of bodily incarceration - displaying a veracity, intensity and emotional fullness that could move one to tears.. Its a movie she has co-produced, so she has understood the nuances of her role to a great degree of detail. And then Emmy Rossum as her care-giver is just about perfect. Her large, deep luminous black eyes sparkle with emotions as it changes tide from extremely frivolity to deep sadness and hurt. Many critics consider her as one of the most talented actors of this generation. I must agree with them.. Her screen presence is phenomenal; and to keep pace with Hillary Swank's brilliance is no easy task. She has done it with aplomb. George Wolfe's direction is average. In all fairness to him, there was nothing for him to do but to set the scene and allow two great actors to take over.
To conclude, the movie will move you to tears, however much you may try not to. Last year there was a challenge going around in Facebook to spread awareness of ALS. If you truly wish to know what it could do to a potentially healthy human being, then see this movie. You may start looking at ALS differently...
God bless...
Yours in mortality,

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