A documentary about the as-yet-unsolved medical mystery known as chronic fatigue syndrome, “I Remember Me” is intriguing and informative so long as it regards the subject from a sympathetic but objective distance. Producer-helmer Kim A. Snyder’s insistence on putting herself front and center, however, doesn’t add a personal dimension so much as make pic seem like an awkward half-vanity project; she would have been better off either going wholly first-person or keeping herself offscreen entirely. Docu played a brief San Francisco theatrical date and is being distributed by Zeitgeist to other specialized U.S. engagements.
Snyder suffered from CFS for five years and sporadically recorded her progress; how she recovered — or how anyone else has — is a significant point film fails to cover. First noted nationwide in the mid-1980s (and given an official name only in 1988), CFS continues to baffle, frustrate and cause controversy, with the lack of conclusive research resulting in the lingering public (and sometimes medical) perception that it’s simply hypochondriac hysteria.
But the victims — some entire families, or children who have lost virtually their entire youth to the illness — don’t bear that prejudice out, and the symptoms they brave are as wide-ranging as they are frightening. Latter include fever, dizziness, swollen glands, disorientation, near-paralysis, insomnia, seizures, back/stomach pain, aching joints, severe weight loss and impaired coordination.
Many of those afflicted chafe at the very label of “chronic fatigue,” since that covers just one possible effect — a crippling energy-loss that can leave people virtually bedridden for months or years — and furthers the popular misconception that the overall condition is psychosomatic or, worse still, glorified laziness.
Brain scans, spinal taps, blood analyses, et al. seem helpless to determine CFS’s cause or probable development. Is it a disease? A virus? Snyder notes how many illnesses (from multiple sclerosis to cancer) were at one time dismissed as “hysteria.”
All of this is fascinating, and there are some powerful sequences with long-afflicted persons like Stephen Paganini, a once-athletic teen who can only attend his high school graduation (the first time he’s been out of bed in months) with the help of an ambulance, stretcher and oxygen mask. Champion women’s soccer player Michelle Akers and vet film director Blake Edwards, both seemingly recovered, are among other CSF sufferers who speak here.
But docu’s effectiveness is undermined by Snyder herself. She’s seen soulfully walking on the beach, etc., as mournful music (by Arvo Part, Michael Nyman and other contempo composers) floods the soundtrack. Effect is indulgent at best and amateurish at worst, diluting pic’s seriousness as an objective treatment of a neglected public health issue.
Tech aspects are well handled.