Review: ‘39 Pounds of Love: The Story of Ami Ankilewitz’

Born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, Ami Ankilewitz wasn't expected to live past age 6. Now in his mid-30s, the tiny, wheelchair-dependent survivor decides to visit the Texas doctor who made that damning diagnosis, in "39 Pounds of Love."

Born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, Ami Ankilewitz wasn’t expected to live past age 6. Now in his mid-30s, the tiny, wheelchair-dependent survivor — who currently lives in Israel — decides to visit the Texas doctor who made that damning diagnosis, in “39 Pounds of Love.” Dani Menkin’s documentary tracks his odyssey, which by nature is hard to be cynical about. Still, the feature feels padded even at 70 minutes. It’s slotted for a late-fall limited U.S. theatrical release before settling into a more natural berth on cable.

Celebrating his 34th birthday in Tel Aviv, Ami — a computer animator whose rather pedestrian avian-romance whimsy is intercut throughout — announces he’s going on a road trip. Decision seems propelled by the emotional fallout created when he parted ways with his pretty 21-year-old Romanian live-in caretaker. As Ami’s frightened parents predicted, the trans-Atlantic and cross-country trip (in an RV with several helpmates) taxes his fragile health. But he makes it from Los Angeles to Miami, confronting the now-retired, bewildered doctor in a somewhat anticlimactic scene. Technically adequate pic hits the desired plucky/inspirational notes in a pat way, sometimes unnecessarily stretching out uninspired footage.

39 Pounds of Love: The Story of Ami Ankilewitz

Production

An HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films presentation of a Hey Jude production in association with Priddy Brothers Entertainment. Produced by Dani Menkin, Daniel J. Chalfen. Executive producers, John Priddy, Ed Priddy, David Gil, John Matlick, Lynn Roth. Directed by Dani Menkin.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Yoav Kleinman; editors, Sam Bauer, Geoffrey O'Brien, Pablo Petschek; music, Chris Gubisch. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Oct. 23, 2005. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) English, Hebrew dialogue. Running time: 70 MIN.

With

Ami Ankilewitz.
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