Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is one of those films where the inspiration provided by filmmaker Joe Cross and Phil Staples, trumps the weaker points of an overstretched juicer commercial.
In a way, the film ought to have been two feature length documentaries. In the first half we learn about Cross’ decision to travel across The United States for 60 days, on a diet of nothing but fresh juice from fruit and vegetables. He is obese, suffers from all sorts of health problems. This is an opportunity for him to reboot his life and prove to others it is possible.
Much of the road trip is spent interviewing people on the pavements. We are introduced to a whole range of people who confess to their current eating habits. Some are heathy eaters; most, by their own admission are not. This ranges from sixteen year old girls to gun store owners. As one of them said “I’m a happy fat man.” In fact, there are also many trips to eateries as well, with Cross making use of every opportunity to tell people about the journey he is embarking on. Most of the responses are the old “good on you but I’m happy as I am,” a tired answer used by those unwilling to subject themselves to a certain level of discomfort.
Words of wisdom from medical experts are used sparingly. As a result, I found the overall impact of what they actually said to be more meaningful. The cartoon narratives on health are a nice touch to facilitate understanding.
As he completes his journey, Joe reveals how far he has come. Not only has he lost a tremendous amount of weight, within months he is no longer taking any medication. Despite this, for much of his journey, I couldn’t help but feel as if the documentary is really about showcasing ‘as seen on TV’ juicers. Sometimes it all just feels a bit too much.
Then we come to part two of the film. During the trip, Cross meets Phil Staples, a truck driver from Iowa, who has been struggling with his weight for years and who also has the same skin condition as Joe. Most of the second half is dedicated towards the personal transformation that Staples undergoes. Whilst very touching, it stretches and labours the film, making this documentary feel like two back-to-back 45 minute documentaries.
I did enjoy the message of healthy living in the film and got somewhat inspired to give juicing a try. Although I still have my reservations about quick fix health solutions. So many clashes of opinion occur on the issue of weight loss and nutrition, that trial and error in healthy eating is often the best way to discover what works best for each individual.
Most people know what constitutes a healthy diet. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead merely shows one way to get the 5+ a day of fruit and vegetables. If that helps people increase their intake of fibre, vitamins and fresh nutrients , then the world is a little better off for having this film in circulation.