Critics' Pick

When I Walk (NR)

Documentary 85 October 25, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
When I Walk probably wouldn't have made its way off the festival circuit were the words "inspiring" and "uplifting" not apt descriptors of it. But it's the intimacy (nicely balanced between discreet and unflinching) with which filmmaker Jason DaSilva turns his camera on himself to capture the ravaging effects of multiple sclerosis on his body and life that makes the film so absorbing and moving. Spanning several years, Walk moves quickly but never skimps on the medical or personal, or on revealing the nuanced evolution of DaSilva's emotional and psychological states. And in its rousing third act, it shows DaSilva putting himself to work on the issue of wheelchair accessibility in New York. Before receiving his MS diagnosis in 2006 at age 25, with several award-winning films under his belt, DaSilva had been leading something of a charmed life. The film opens a year later, charting a steady erosion of his physicality-- and his battle to best the illness. Yoga, ayurvedic medicine, a trip to Lourdes, experimental surgery, and lots of prayers and tears later, the disease's toll aggressively mounts; his legs and hands slowly stop functioning, his vision weakens. It's all conveyed through a seamless weaving of original footage, interviews with family, friends, and medical experts, and original animation. Those are stock tools of contemporary documentary-making, and DaSilva doesn't push the envelope in terms of form. He trusts his story's inherent drama-- the despair and frustrations, the unexpected twist of a love story-- and is wise to do so. It's an often gut-wrenching viewing experience in which the triumphs of the hero are hard won.
Jason DaSilva Alice Cook, Jason DaSilva Long Shot Factory

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