The Golden Rule - Documentary Review

★★★★

Directed by: #DianeMellen & #StaceyStone

Documentary Review by Taryll Baker

Poster for The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is a new documentary from filmmaker’s Diane Mellen and Stacey Stone focusing on the Santa Susana nuclear meltdown in 1959 that plagued the surrounding areas for many years (still showing affects today), disrupting the lives of the residents with deadly results. While the film places the spotlight on Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California, it does mention other states in the US that face similar problematic issues. The film prompts an urge to clean up the contaminated area, while bringing forward solid evidence of the cancer rates and other serious illnesses being a reaction of the partial meltdown’s toxic radiation.

Given the importance of the subject matter in The Golden Rule, it’s clear that a sharp and precise approach would be taken, and while it’s very crucial, the way in which it’s structured and paced can become quite overwhelming and, in some ways, plain. It’s almost suffocating you with a hefty amount of vital information bursting throughout its hour-long duration, which actually seems to be intentional, so while this is a bit of a slog to get through, it’s understandably needed. Seeing the government's negligence and out-right denial of any problem is shocking though not surprising. One individual mentions how their health isn’t important to the government, that profit comes before concern.


Supporting the imagery is a grandiose score by David Raiklen, which brings a classical feel with lots of choir and string movements. There are also moments of simple underscoring for the information hauls, as well as hip-hop tracks which seem to feel like they’re only there to give it some “edge” rather than utilised more purposefully. The structuring, as mentioned before, can overwhelm but the way in which everything is presented is well thought-out — there are news headlines, displaying government coverups, as well as disclosure agreements for property purchases in the area.

As the documentary progresses into its final 20 minutes, it shows just how much this disturbance is swept under the rug. Fortunately, residents and the filmmakers alike are very passionate about bringing this all to light and hoping for big change that must happen, and soon. As someone who isn’t familiar with nuclear meltdowns such as this — and it doesn’t seem like I’m alone in that — it was an informative watch. The last film I saw that focused on contamination like this was Dark Waters, about DuPont’s chemical poisoning in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Films and documentaries like The Golden Rule are crucial; showing people fighting the system that seems to be constantly putting us at harm, proving that with enough drive and perseverance, change can happen.


Watch the trailer for The Golden Rule below.

#TaryllBaker