Watching a good documentary is frequently emotional. Yet even when placed alongside other non-fiction, I Am Breathing (T/F 2013) stands out for its undeniable poignancy. The film documents Neil Platt’s struggle against Motor Neuron Disease (MND), and the legacy he created for his wife Louise and infant son Oscar as his life slipped away. For anyone who has seen it, Neil’s story lingers as a forceful reminder of how precious our time really is.
Neil’s illness confined him to a chair, even taking away the use of his arms. As his body became a prison, his blog The Plattitude became his means of connecting with the rest of the world. As he puts it late in I Am Breathing, “the freedom to communicate has to be your strongest and most powerful freedom”. In the film we watch as he composes posts with voice recognition software, a laborious and frustrating process. We see his words spelled out on the screen and hear his thoughts transformed into beautiful and hilarious narration. In this way director Emma Davie builds the doc around Neil’s wisdom, courage and cheeky humor in the face of death.
Now the team of I Am Breathing is resharing all one hundred posts of The Plattitude, one each day, counting down until Global Awareness Day for MND/ALS June 21st, an event which will be marked by worldwide screenings of the film. This includes a free screening at Ragtag Cinema sponsored by the University of Missouri’s Interdisciplinary Center on Aging one day early on June 20th.
Neil’s widow Louise wrote an introduction for the blog and added a commentary to each post. The original comments are preserved so that you can read the feedback and encouragement that meant so much to Neil. In addition to the film’s website, you can follow these posts on I Am Breathing‘s Facebook page and Twitter feed at the hashtag #Plattitude.
Following the T/F screening at Ragtag, fellow documentarian Alison Klayman asked Emma Davie about what was unexpected in telling Neil’s story. Her emotional response is in the video below.