Eagerly mimicking reality TV’s need to mold life into a digestible narrative, the documentary 39 Pounds of Love simplifies its subject until all that’s left is a name and a cloying score. Ami Ankilewitz, 34 during filming, was not expected to live past the age of six after being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy (he never developed past the weight of the title). Living with his caretaker Christina in an apartment in Tel Aviv, he makes animated shorts and knocks back whiskey with friends. A remarkable accomplishment, this life of his, but it’s merely used as grist for director Dani Menkin’s Real World–style theatrics. After Ami declares his unrequited love for Christina, Menkin constructs a queasy melodrama through a montage of anxious glances and black-and-white home video. Ami is further subjected to the manipulative hands of genre as the love story is jettisoned in favor of a road movie that climaxes every few minutes with portentous shots of landscapes portending nothing. His thoughts and personality left blank, Ami is reduced to a player in the clumsy drama constructed around him.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 15, 2005