Uneven doc A Brave Heart raises the question: What makes a hero? What combination of bravery, ambition, and narcissism drives a person to advocacy on an international stage?
Subject Lizzie Velasquez, star of her own YouTube channel and TED talks, is a natural. She’s a charismatic, hilarious fashion plate, no matter how her Marfan syndrome and lipodystrophy make her look — or the 2008 video in which some mean YouTuber labeled her “the world’s ugliest woman.”
That was a terrible launching point for someone with such a big personality; a better example is when, in the film, the 26-year-old talks about how she used to introduce herself on the first day of class every year. This, her teachers say, not only got her classmates comfortable with her differences, but drew them to her. Her parents love her and wanted to protect her from the world, but instead they equipped her with the confidence and self-respect to take that world on.
Not everyone can succeed in the public eye, but Lizzie has the talent. However, A Brave Heart is not very sophisticated, flitting between Lizzie the internet celebrity, Lizzie the anti-bullying activist, Lizzie the beloved eldest daughter of a close-knit family, and Lizzie the young woman whose health challenges make her advocacy even harder. Scenes of her hugging fans in airports around the globe aren’t nearly as affecting as time spent with Lizzie and her family.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo
Opens September 25, Village East Cinema
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 2015