Unrest

Directed by Jennifer Brea

When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s "all in her head." Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story—and four other families' stories—fighting a disease medicine forgot.

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  • ★★★½ review by The Spork Guy on Letterboxd

    A completely frightening look at one of the least understood but most devastating diseases known to mankind. This is a great documentary explaining the hell one goes through when inflicted with this terrible fate. It’s depressing, empathy driving and a look at how The Nightmare should have been made. The fact that the director of this film is inflicted with it, only adds miles to the movie’s already urgent call to be seen and shared. 

    - The Spork Guy

  • ★★★★ review by mette 🌖 on Letterboxd

    It's been a few days since I watched this, but I needed to gather my thoughts before actually writing a review. Because I have to write a review. In fact, I'm in desperate need of it. So, while there's a big chance this will be a long, boring and messy review, I would very much appreciate if you took the time to at least try to read it. I would also very much appreciate it if you watched the documentary if you ever get the oppurtunity.

    Unrest is a documentary made by Jennifer Brea, a woman diagnosed with ME/CFS, or if you want longer terms, myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. We follow her and others with the same diagnosis through a life that very few can imagine what is like.

    Millions of people around the globe are suffering from this disease. And I am one of them.

    ME is in Norway a disease that most people nowadays have heard of. However, it's a diagnosis that people love to not take seriously. One that people like to call the disease people who "are too lazy to work" get diagnosed with, like Rikcy Gervais so nicely said once.

    We who suffer from this is an invisible group of people. Just as with every disease, there are different grades. Some can live almost a normal life. Others can spend year after year in a bed in a dark room getting worse only hearing someone talk. I'm in the middle of those two. I spend most of my days in the bed or on the couch. Compared to many I guess you can call me lucky. I can usually handle 45 minutes of home school twice a week. I can usually handle quite a things if there's extreme planning involved. Like in the summers. I usually get a trip to a foreign country. This year it was Poland. I relaxed for weeks before, I took everything in my own tempo while I was there, and when I came home, I collapsed. I can hold myself for a few days at times, but there will always be a crash. A crash with terrible exhaustion and terrible pain. And I know it's not easy to understand. I'm not good at explaining either. It perhaps sounds strange that I'm willing to take a trip like that when I know I will collapse. But I need to live. If I collapse afterwards, it's worth it. Because for a few days I felt like a half normal person. I got to see things. Experience new things.

    I'm quite stabile. It usually don't go up and down as much as they show in this documentary, but there are obviously both better and worse periods. Sometimes I can handle a lot. I can be outside more. My concentration can be better and I can read. And then they can be worse. Sometimes my legs can't bear me. There have been times where I've had to crawl up and down the stairs to get to my room. There are days where taking a shower is impossible.

    And then you have all the symptoms. Being exhausted is only one of them. I don't think people realise what excruciating pain one can be in. My legs can sometime hurt so badly that the only thing I can wear is really loose pants. Sometimes it feels like my head will burn.

    But the worst thing. The absolute worst thing is that you see life pass without being able to take part in it. I get older and older, but I'm stuck at the same place. The people my age carry on. They get an education. They get a boyfriend or girlfriend. They live life, while I'm stuck here, not knowing whether I'll ever get healthy again.

    There are discussions whether ME is a physical or mental disease. Trust me when I say that there's nothing wrong with being mentally ill, but that is not what ME is - it's a physical disease that should be treated as such.

    I wish I could have written something better, something that explains it more or makes more sense, but my head is not completely with me today. I just needed to get something out.

  • ★★★★ review by Matthew Mulcahy on Letterboxd

    Please, Oscar gods, smile down upon my lecturer's film.

  • ★★★★½ review by Nick Rogers on Letterboxd

    “You can disappear so easily simply because someone’s telling the wrong story about you, and there’s no one coming to look for me because no one even knows I went missing.”

    “Unrest” is right up there with “Dear Zachary” as a documentary I would recommend unreservedly without any description of its narrative whatsoever. For it is, as all great documentaries are, about everything – history, medicine, horror, love and escape, with heroes and villains and betrayals and reconciliations, all wrapped up into one stunning package that will, at different times and for different reasons, knock you flat. While it’s not the year’s first film to make me sad, it is the first one to make me cry – not for anything resembling a wallow in misery or a momentous victory, but championing everyday resiliency in a couple that would, for reasons lightly touched upon, would already seen as atypical and different by their friends and peers.

    Beyond that, it establishes this pair as part of a community where connection and conviction are the only signifiers of life. As its subject and story architect Jennifer Brea says, “This is not a tale of triumph or tragedy … yet” and what a glorious fermata in which to find one’s self.

  • ★★★★½ review by Jared Mobarak on Letterboxd

    Only someone who lives with it like Brea can earn the trust of those who've never been trusted. The mix between education and experience is perfectly balanced with each subject bringing something new to the table as far as issues, hope, or despair.

    my full review

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