Documentaries can do a number of things from informing the viewer on a subject or encouraging them to take action. Unrest, directed and featuring Jennifer Brea, manages to do both while also making the audience feel lots of empathy. It wasn’t an easy documentary to watch as some of the concerns addressed in the film could be felt by the audience that is watching it.

Unrest is playing at the 2017 Florida Film Festival

Unrest (2017) - Berk ReviewsJennifer Brea began documenting her life as she was suffering from extreme fatigue where the cause was not initially identified. In time and many doctors she found she had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Her desire to make more people aware of the syndrome she seeks out others who also suffer from this disorder, that isn’t so rare, and creates this documentary.

The film focuses primarily on Jennifer and her husband Omar Wasow but also features several doctors who are involved in the study of CFS or M.E. The really emotional crux is seeing the severity the M.E. can have on those with it, particularly with the 22-year-old, Jessica. She has been  for eight years and essentially has the bones of a 100-year-old. The craziest story involves a girl named Karina who lives in Denmark. The doctors there feel M.E. is still a psychological disorder and took Karina away from her family using the logic that her symptoms are in her head and her parents are only enabling her to continue thinking that by treating her as though she was sick. Thus, removing her from her family is the only way to get better.

The disorder can look severe or like people are faking

Unrest (2017) - Berk ReviewsOne of the issues that sufferers of this disorder has to deal with is people, doctors and loved ones, thinking they’re just faking. For the longest time there was no clear cause of M.E.and people would often blame the sufferer. Sadly, it is possible for skeptics watching this documentary to still take that attitude. Despite several doctors discussing the disorder, there is still a lot unknown about it and watching it on screen isn’t always believable. Just the range in which the sufferers of the disorder exhibit symptoms being so vast only helps build on the idea that some are faking it. Jennifer at times seems to be unable to even lift her head, but later will be able to take long walks. This is the impact of the disorder, but behaviors that are easy to shrug off as acting by anyone wishing to doubt the validity of the disorder.

Final thoughts…

Whether or not you’re convinced about the disorder called myalgic encephalomyelitis, the documentary is well crafted and definitely hits the emotional beats. There were moments where I felt extreme discomfort while watching as I tend to be empathetic towards medical conditions. The film is put together in compelling ways and the variety of stories makes it a compelling documentary to watch. Unrest, playing at the Florida Film Festival on Monday, April 24th at 6:30PM, earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.