I had the tremendous fortune of catching this documentary at last autumn’s Docfest in Sheffield. Primarily drawn by promises of an intimate portrait of an illustrating legend from 2000AD, I ended up sucker-punched by one of the rawest and most honest documentaries I’ve ever seen. Charting the woes of graphic artist Johnny Hincklenton and his battle with Multiple Sclerosis, you’d think it would all end up heavier than a lead balloon. And it is, only with a human face and a pitch-black sense of humour.
The film is interwoven with illustrations and art works by the subject himself, and his vivid and occasionally horrific visuals set an oddly ‘sharp’ tone. Johnny is pretty much in constant pain, and he makes no bones about it: its shit, its hell and he absolutely hates it. It’s his cross to bear, and while he’s eternally grateful to still have control in his hands, he’s terrified by thought of slowly becoming locked in his own body.
For as much as the film is a portrait of a man, it is also an investigation of MS itself. Tackling the issue head on, it covers all the details about a condition which has become a bit of white elephant in the Western world. Everyone seems to know someone who knows someone who has been affected by the disease, and the film came as a dangerous wake-up call on how pitifully little I knew myself. It also goes into the issue of euthanasia, and Johnny’s wishes to be able to pull the plug on his life we he sees fit. As he says himself, it’s his personal ‘fuck you’ to MS.
The filmmakers have achieved something amazing, and the film’s been duly recognised with two Grierson awards, a first in the competitions history. The suits upstairs have for once recognised this, and the film’s TV premiere is on More4 on the 17th of February at 10:00 pm.
Not to sound like a clichéd trailer voice-over, but seriously, if you only see one documentary this year make it this. I would also suggest you make an effort to see more than just one documentary, but whatever you do put this one first on your list.