By the Grace of...
1 Jan 2022
Dylan Reid, Laith Khalifeh, Grainne Ortlieb, Whitney Masters
A young man discovers that he has a devastating disease and decides to make a film that will explore what life is like living with his condition.
This moving drama is an autobiographical work by Reid, who was motivated to make this feature after he himself was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a rare inherited disease that develops cognitive, movement and psychiatric disorders. The average lifespan after diagnosis is between ten to thirty years and currently, there is no cure. A significant number of the cast and crew was made up of Reid's friends.
The film begins with Reid, who plays himself, receiving the fateful diagnosis and the audience observes him as he tries to get on with his life. The symptoms will begin to take over in approximately ten years and the discovery that he has this disease is not a complete surprise as his late mother also suffered from the same condition and he knew there was a high possibility that he would inherit it from her. He spends a great deal of time with his friends, including Lucas (Khalifeh) and Emily (Masters) and comes up with the idea to make a movie that will show how Huntington's Disease has affected his life. He also starts a romantic relationship with a friendly and joyful young woman named Lizzie (Ortlieb), however he conceals his illness from her, as he does not want people to suffer by watching what he will be going through in the future.
Reid comes across as a likeable, intelligent and selfless individual, who treats people with respect and is very brave regarding how he handles his condition, by keeping his head up and carrying on being creative and sociable. He is surrounded by supportive people who care deeply for him, nevertheless it is heartbreaking knowing that he will be going through awful times. The viewer follows him as he works with friends on the film, writes the script, holds casting sessions, visits a pastor and carries on dating Lizzie. The atmosphere is rather emotional throughout and there are moments that show the strength of friendship and the desire to make significant achievements in life.
There are several scenes that take the style of documentary filmmaking and they include friends of Reid (his real-life friends) looking into the camera and talking about how they felt when they learned about his diagnosis. Their faces are filled with emotion and it is clear that the news affected them heavily. Watching them share their thoughts is quite dramatic.
Reid directs well and the cinematography by Henry Zaballos looks beautiful. Paul Cherry and Karsten Osterby make a great contribution with the dramatic score.
This multi-award-winning film is a rather personal project, one that reflects the director's own life. It will most likely move the audience by introducing them to an individual who is forced to deal with some of the hardest realities of life but who is also strong and has tons of support from the people around him. It also raises awareness of Huntington's Disease and offers a viewing experience that will probably remain with the audience for a long time.