‘Not Going Quietly’ Review: Into the Long Fight
In 2016, Ady Barkan was working as an advocate for economic justice when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a neurological disease that deteriorates motor function. Doctors told him he only had three or four years to live. The documentary “Not Going Quietly” begins shortly after this grim diagnosis, as Ady embarks on a new political campaign, this time focusing on public health policy.
In the film, Ady leaves the comforts of home and family to travel across the United States on a speaking tour as part of her “Be a Hero” campaign. He leads rallies in congressional districts where politicians support what Ady considers inhumane health policies. In Washington, his pressure for access to health care led Ady to protest the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Through this struggle, his disease progresses, limiting his ability to move and speak.
The most intriguing scenes in the documentary center on the mechanics of Ady’s activism. Director Nicholas Bruckman captures Ady and a team of organizers as they hold training for protesters who intend to film themselves disrupting politicians during routine campaign stops with questions about care health. This training represents one of the rare occasions when Bruckman treats Ady’s success as the result of the organization, rather than a feat achieved through the strength of his personality.
Ady’s vitality has been at the heart of his accomplishments. But Bruckman sidesteps the significant amount of planning it took for Ady and her team to build a national movement. This lack of practicality means this documentary plays out like a human-interest story, constructed from predictable beats of adversity and triumph. It’s a warm and generous portrayal, but the film lacks the propulsive finesse of its central organizer.
Don’t go quietly
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.
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