I realized about ten minutes into this movie that there was no way for me to write a proper review.  Not in the sense that I’ve done with other documentary reviews: I can nitpick endlessly on several of them about the slanting view points, the lack of clarity with information, and so on.  If there is one thing I can say negatively about this film (which really isn’t a negative at all), it’s that there’s only four stories being told here, when MSF has thousands of volunteers, each with their own stories.  Still, each story shown is important, showing the troubles each of them face in an underdeveloped nation ravaged by war and internal strife.

Two of the stories come from newcomers: Tom is an American, dismayed by the American health system and the desire for something new, but is quickly overwhelmed by the work in the capital city of Liberia, while Davinder, an Australian, faces his own problems in a town several days away from the capital city.  The other two stories come from MSF veterans: Chiara, an engaging Head of Mission that tries her hardest to keep morale high, and Chris, a doctor trying to get out, even when he’s being pulled back into another war torn country.  Chiara runs the mission in Liberia, while Chris works out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, still in the grips of a civil war.  All of them make tough decisions every day, often in contradiction to their idealism, but they do what they can.

Each day for the doctors is busy, with different cases all reflecting the damage society of sub-Saharan Africa: a man has an infection and needs his leg removed below his knee, a child swells in his stomach and face with no known explanation, a man is shot in the face and loses his ear, a teenage girl is shot in the arm in a random attack, but even worse for her, she loses her parents.  The physical toll is gut-wrenching; the human toll is heart-breaking.

And yet the doctors soldier on, saving whom they can with whatever instruments they have available to them.  They grieve when someone else dies (which happens far more often than when people live), and they celebrate when they unexpectedly save a life.  They drink, they smoke, they party, and they have sex.

They’re human, at times far more human than we are, on the frayed ends of society.  The people they serve are just as human, if not more so: one of the doctors describe them as far more human than any they’ve experienced.  Even with nothing but the clothes on their back, they have their family and friends around them as much as possible, with nothing like greed or gluttony separating them.  If only we could be like them, maybe we’d understand ourselves a little more.

So yes, there is a sense of hope to be found from the insanity that’s faced in this movie.  It’s not a lot, but it’s that small ideal hopefulness that we all have and wish to grasp someday.



Note: the movie is currently playing at the Ritz at the Bourse.  I don’t think I need to tell you twice to see this.