“When I Walk” is Jason DaSilva’s video-diary portrait of his own struggles with multiple sclerosis, which struck without warning when he was 25 and has drastically reduced his physical abilities since. A likable, intimate documentary kept from being too grim by the leads’ good-humored personalities, the pic will be most at home as a quality broadcast item.
DaSilva had already waded into a promising career as a globe-trotting documentarian — his first professional short accepted into Sundance, a first feature already under his belt — when, late in 2006, he abruptly lost control of his legs during a family vacation (a moment that was duly captured oncamera). Diagnosed with MS, he commenced a battery of tests and attempted treatments and cures (including a trip to Lourdes) as his motor skills rapidly deteriorated — first requiring him to use a cane, then a walker, then a motorized wheelchair.
Despite worries that his dating life is over, he falls in love with Alice Cook (credited here as his co-producer/writer/editor), a fellow Manhattanite whose mother is also afflicted with MS. They get married, though it’s not easy; as DaSilva’s vision and use of his hands degenerate, Cook becomes as much caretaker as wife, making the prospect of raising children challenging.
The pic is a bit clunky at times in its structure of blackout-separated chapters, and its subjects aren’t the most articulate folks, but it’s all kept relatable by their almost unshakably upbeat attitudes. (Providing recurrent comedy relief is DaSilva’s no-nonsense mother, who constantly drops bombshells of well-meaning pessimism like, “Things are tough in life! Get real!”) Simple animation segments enliven the brisk if sometimes technically basic assembly.