Saturday 12 August 2023

Movie Review: Brain On Fire (2016)

Genre: Medical Drama
Director: Gerard Barrett
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Carrie-Anne Moss, Richard Armitage, Tyler Perry, Jenny Slate
Running Time: 95 minutes

Synopsis: Susannah Cahalan (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a 21-year-old reporter at the New York Post. She starts to suffer from trance-like moments and hallucinations, and her symptoms worsen to constant headaches and disorientation, impairing her ability to function. Her co-worker Margo (Jenny Slate) and boss Richard (Tyler Perry) are exasperated, while her divorced parents Rhona and Tom (Carrie-Anne Moss and Richard Armitage) and boyfriend Stephen (Thomas Mann) try to help. Doctors misdiagnose Susannah's worsening symptoms as caused by exhaustion until Dr. Souhel Najjar (Navid Negahban) agrees to investigate her case.

What Works Well: The adaptation of Cahalan's autobiographical book raises awareness about a previously little-known brain inflammation illness, and the potential dangers of misdiagnosing physiological ailments as psychosis or schizophrenia. In the central role, a capable Chloë Grace Moretz generates sympathy and conveys the agony of a happily functioning life crashing against an inexplicable condition.

What Does Not Work As Well: Writer and director Gerard Barrett decides to focus most of the film on the slow onset of symptoms, from brief moments of dysfunction to seizures and a full-on catatonic state. The medical answer already resides in the title, but only the final 10 minutes are dedicated to a rushed diagnosis and resolution. It's almost as though only the less interesting first half of the story made it to the screen.

Conclusion: Educational, but dwells for too long in the patient waiting area.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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