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I AM BREATHING - Movie Review - 2013

Documenting The End of A Life

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I AM BREATHING - Movie Review - 2013

I AM BREATHING still showing Neil Platt

Scottish Documentary Institute
I AM BREATHING is a profoundly moving documentary about Edinburgh architect Neil Platt's bout with Motor Neurone Disease (MND, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), a rare disorder that causes those who have it to completely lose the communication between their brains and their muscles, ultimately ending all use of their motor nerves and all bodily function. The progressive disease is always fatal. There is nothing anyone can do for its victims other than comfort them as they slowly (or quickly) lose their ability to move their limbs, to walk, to swallow, to breathe -- and die.

Neil Platt was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease when he was 33 years old, and a brand new first time father. He knew he would die, but didn't know how long it would take. So, he started a blog called The Plattitude to chronicle the progression of the disease, give expression to the emotions and thoughts that it brought with it into his life, and raise awareness about a disease that's still little understood by the medical profession, nor much known by the general public. He says in I AM BREATHING that the disease might have been triggered by a bee sting he got on his eye while he was bicycling. So, really, not much is known about the cause of Motor Neurone Disease disease, and nothing is known about how to cure it.

Neil Platt's blog serves as the film's narrative. He speaks and words are typed out on a computer screen. This process of dictation to the computer is often frustrating, especially when it is necessary to repeat phrases over and over again because the computer has misinterpreted what he has said. But he persists, and many of his comments reveal tremendous wisdom and resolve on his part.

Filmmakers Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon are extremely sensitive in their approach to Neil Platt's story. They've shot recent footage of Neil Platt, his wife and son just before the Motor Neurone Disease struck, and that shot during the last year of his life, This is mixed with archival footage of Neil Platt as a youngster and young adult and successful professional -- all before the disease took hold. The montage sometimes takes on a dream-like quality that feels like it's putting you inside Neil's mind, as he reflects on his past experiences and present circumstances.

This is an extremely intimate film, a heart wrenching look at the physical state of being and the state of mind of a man who is rendered by Motor Neurone Disease to be so helpless he can't even scratch an itch, breathes with a respirator and, in the end, can't swallow.

In sharing his experience with Motor Neurone Disease, his state of being, his slow decline and the approach of death at too young an age, Neil Platt reveals a profound honesty and wisdom. In the short time span of the film, he becomes a friend, a member of the family. Anyone who has comforted a loved one as death nears will recognize and honor the sensitivity with which this film is made. The film is not only a moving tribute to Neil Platt, it is also his legacy, one that touches and teaches all of us. RIP Neil Platt, and thank you, your family, the filmmakers and the Scottish Documentary Institute for giving us I AM BREATHING.

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Film Details:

  • I AM BREATHING
  • Director: Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon
  • Produced by: Sonja Henrici, Scottish Documentary Institute
  • Theatrical Release Date: June 21, 2013 (UK)
  • Global I AM BREATHING Day: June 23, 2013
  • Running Time: 73 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Production Country: Scotland and Denmark
  • Filming Location: Scotland
  • Language: English
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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