I Choose to Live:
A Journey Through Life with ALS
"So Much So Fast"
Some documentaries are undertaken with a predetermined idea of what the future will bring and of its conformation to a desired dramatic structure. But in this recording of a man's physical deterioration due to the dread disease ALS, events didn't quite go as outlined. The film is a setup for disappointment.
What is likely to make it resonate with responsive audiences and remove any criticism about not fulfilling a 5-year project's hopes and intentions, is the humor and personality of an unusual medical victim.
That victim is Stephen Heywood, a man whose essentially productive outlook on life sees him through in a quite remarkable style that could be called imdomitable. Throughout the ravages of a wasting neurological disorder (aka, Lou Gehrig's disease) and the likelihood of having only a few years to live (the great folksinger-songwriter Woody Guthrie is one of its best known victims) Heywood is determined to make the most of the time he has and stave off its inevitable impairments as long as possible in order to witness and enjoy the development of his newborn son and the happiness it brings him.
The seemingly day-to-day attentions of a film crew documents all the changes, physical, mental, and social, as well as the support of a loyal ring of friends, a wife who is very much on Heywood's intellectual wavelength (which is high on the IQ charts), and a brother who, through the effectiveness of his social skills, raises the capital for a serious scientific effort to take the limited research toward new realms of discovery.
Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan's documentary is all about life and death and coping with a tragically brief span between the two for one unlucky but determined soul.
~~ Jules Brenner Cinema Signals