‘So Much So Fast’


The neuromuscular affliction ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) sentences the sufferer to a Cronenbergian nightmare: the eventual loss of one’s ability to walk, speak, or even breathe unassisted, while the mind remains sharp enough to watch helplessly. Since ALS is at present an “orphan disease”—i.e., there’s too small a market to interest Big Pharma in pursuing new treatments—a happy ending seems out of the question for Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan’s wrenching documentary, which follows 29-year-old Stephen Heywood from vigorous youth to near incapacity in the five years after his diagnosis. But the film is no maudlin pity-fest: It’s an absorbing account of fraternal love and obsession, as Stephen’s brother assembles a “guerrilla science” foundation to find a cure when no one else will. Condensing years of filming down to 87 minutes makes every cut register with a pang of mortality: The temporal ellipses swipe away precious weeks and months in a flicker. Under the gaze of Ascher and Jordan (Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern), themselves the surviving family of an ALS patient, Stephen makes a brave and candid subject—sometimes hilariously so. Asked what advice he’d give himself if he could go back in time before the diagnosis—the kind of question that begs a wet-eyed response—the nearly immobile Stephen murmurs, “Have more sex on film.”

Archive Highlights