This documentary provides an overview of the debilitating illness myalgic encephalomyelitis (better known as chronic fatigue syndrome), charting its history, analyzing various treatment methods, and presenting portraits of people in different countries who suffer from the disease. Director Jennifer Brea has ME herself, and she structures the film around footage from her own video diaries; these excerpts—which recount her physical deterioration, years spent in bed, and fitfully successful efforts to overcome the disease—personalize the medical lesson and give the film an emotional core. Sad as Brea's story can be, some of the other portraits are even sadder: one young English woman whom Brea meets online describes being bedridden for over a decade. The most difficult aspect of having ME, the film argues, is lying idle while life passes you by.
By Ben Sachs