Resilience – The Biology of Stress and Science of Hope

It’s not an often occurrence whereby I see a film and think on a film level, it’s not very recommendable, but the gravity of the content makes this important viewing in terms of a message that needs to be spread and observed. James Redford’s documentary covers what is deemed as the most important biological discovery in years, but is still being ignored. That being, the adverse affects that childhood trauma have upon individuals’ health in later stages of life. With it causing serious cardio-vascular problems, more damaging than certain cardiovascular damaging habits such as smoking and alcoholism.

Redford adopts a rather linear approach to explaining the phenomenon, highlighting the two doctors who discovered the link between childhood trauma and ill health in the future, otherwise described as Toxic Stress. The discovery was described as controversial as was the methodology in terms of trying to diagnosing, asking patients deeply personal questions. For the non-medical layman, the film really fails to create the dramatic impact in getting audiences to acknowledge this phenomenon.

Rather than really exploring the barriers and opposition to tacking the problem, Redford decides to show the forward movement of some paediatricians and focus groups trying to tackle the problem, highlighting statistics of those likely to suffer in later life are more likely to come from a poor background. Whilst the film offers a positive outcome and a sense of hope, it doesn’t tackle the barriers and consequences of inaction enough to grip an audience. A few insertions of animation try to breaker the arresting visuals, but it does little to stimulate further interest. The documentaries subjects, although nice, are not the most interesting to follow. I couldn’t help think if there was a sense of tone, either darker and controversial like Black Fish, or lighter like Morgan Spurlock this film could interest a much wider audience outside of those in the medical and therapeutical industries. Criticism aside, as a means to enlighten people and show there is a way to tackle the problem, the film does a fairly good job, that subject alone, makes it almost essential viewing.


Chris Aitken


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