Sick (Bolesno) – EIFF 2016 Review

This scathing documentary tells the story of 16-year-old Croatian Ana who was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital by her parents, where she was mentally and physically tortured for five years by a pitiless doctor determined to cure her of her homosexuality. This tragic tale of abuse is told using intimate shots of Ana, a once normal healthy girl now transformed into a paranoid, struggling woman, thanks to her captors, with a fierce determination to tell the world her story and to get some semblance of justice.

The filmmaker uses the seasons of the year, from decaying autumn to blossoming summer to visually mimic Ana’s journey of transformation. The film is saturated with shots of nature, weather, and the ever-changing idyllic countryside that the repressed Ana can only view without feeling. While these cutaways give us something to look at while Ana speaks as well as generate and maintain mood, the slow pace wasn’t always the best way to retain audience attention and in parts, things could have done well to move along quicker.

It isn’t all grim. The intelligent Ana works hard and thoughtfully through a slow healing process that certainly couldn’t be done any faster. The unsung hero of the piece is Ana’s dutiful girlfriend, who quietly supports her with all the patience of a saint. With Ana taking her case to the courts, it feels a little like this is a story that hasn’t quite ended yet as it’s unclear what the outcome is, or whether this is something that is currently continuing.

There are several big themes that can be taken from this film, and anyone who has been betrayed, emotionally hurt or has difficulty letting others in, will have no difficulty relating to this movie. Ultimately the idea that ‘time heals all wounds’ is the message you’ll be left with here.

★★★ and a half.

Lee Hamilton