So Much So Fast

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Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan’s documentary So Much So Fast is more than an incredible film, it is an exercise in gaining perspective. Existing in a strange limbo of being both life-affirming and depressing at the same time, So Much So Fast is an emotionally riveting portrait of the fight to stay alive in the face of certain death. It is the sort of film that leaves you counting your blessings, while at the same time taking inventory of your own personal strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, it is an intimate glimpse at the life of Stephen Heywood, a man battling fate and racing against time.

Imagine for a moment that you are a bit like Heywood, 29 years old, unmarried, no children, with a promising career. You have your whole life ahead of you. But then you are diagnosed with a deadly disease. There is no cure. No treatment. No hope. The disease will not affect your mind, but it will completely shut down your body, until you can’t even breathe on your own. And then you will die.

Filmed over a span of five years, So Much So Fast brilliantly profiles Heywood—who, at age 29, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a neurological disorder that causes paralysis. Referred to as an “orphan disease”—the sort of ailment ignored by pharmaceutical companies because of a lack of profit potential in finding a cure—ALS is a grim diagnosis. But that does not stop Heywood and his family from attempting to do what has yet to be done: They set out to beat ALS. With the clock ticking, Stephen refuses to give in to the disease. He marries his girlfriend and they decide to start a family before ALS robs him of his mobility. Meanwhile, Stephen’s brother Jamie, with no medical or scientific experience, starts a research center to find a treatment that will prolong his brother’s life. But it is an uphill battle, and as the film progresses, so does Stephen’s ALS, as we literally see him robbed of his ability to walk and speak, but not his desire to keep living.

Produced by Ascher and Jordan (whose mother died of ALS), So Much So Fast is a film of profound human emotion. But this is most definitely not a tragic disease-of-the-week movie. Rather, it is a stunning portrait filled with all the raw feelings that are a part of life, from pain and sorrow to joy and laughter. There is an endearing sense of humor in the film, as well a serious tone, and nearly every other emotion you can think of as the film explores depths seldom explored in most movies. The end result is a film that is not about dying, but rather a film that is about living.

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