'So Much So Fast'
(Stephen Heywood, Jamie Heywood, Ben Heywood, Wendy Stacy Heywood, Melinda Heywood, Peggy Heywood, John Heywood, et al / NR / 87 mins / West City Films)
Overview: Filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan (TROUBLESOME CREEK) return with another moving documentary about family unity in the face of crisis. When 29-year-old Stephen Heywood is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and is given only years to live, his brother becomes obsessed with finding a cure and forms an amateur medical-research facility.
Verdict: OK, so the question is: What would you do if you found out you had an incurable disease and not so long to live? The answer is ... well, just take one look at the flm's title and you'll quickly get the message here! Although relentlessly sad (have you ever seen 'Unknown White Male'?!?!?), 'So Much So Fast' is truly an amazing story none the less. In a tight nutshell, the film chronicles the struggle of Stephen Heywood with ALS and his brother's frustration with the limits of medicine. Amazingly, the married filmmakers discovered their story in a 2000 issue of the New Yorker that contained a story by Jon Weiner on the struggle of brothers Stephen and Jamie Heywood with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease). When Stephen, 29, was diagnosed, Jamie quit his job and dedicated himself to finding a cure, starting a medical research foundation that often found itself at odds with entrenched medical attitudes. Speed, Jamie points out, is of the essence in beating ALS. Sufferers decline so quickly that medical science has to be just as quick in its decisionmaking and be willing to take chances.
So, ostensibly the film is about Stephen, his marriage, his persistence in continuing his work building houses and his physical disintegration. But Jamie is easily as complex, maybe more so. In his nearly desperate refusal to believe that doctors and medical researchers are doing all they can for ALS sufferers (and he makes a good case they're not), he achieves a status worthy of a character in Shakespeare - or, perhaps more aptly, Beckett!
Shot over five years and with apparent all-access, Ascher and Jordan's poignant and often humorous portrait covers two perspectives of this tragic equation, detailing with intimacy and admiration not only the resolutely upbeat Stephen's deterioration — an inexorable development that doesn't prevent him from marrying, having a son, and continuing to work as an architect and play online videogames with his two siblings — but also the feisty, headstrong Jamie's efforts to establish a "guerilla science" foundation intent on circumventing the medical establishment's paltry, apathetic funding of drug research for the rare and fatal condition.
The result is a nonfiction film that seems effortlessly profound and, in its inconclusive finale (in which Stephen's fate is left unremarked upon), proves touchingly, optimistically defiant even in the face of unalterable misfortune. Please, see this movie today along with the aforementioned 'Unknown White Male' ... they might just change something in you.