Angus Reid 29/10/2007
Michael Moore's latest film details the perils of the US healthcare system and the lives of the people it leaves behind. It is, in turns, deeply distressing and flippantly irreverent. The point that Moore makes on the state of US healthcare is one worth bearing in mind, but the treatment of this is perhaps a little heavy handed, and it's best to approach this film in the knowledge that you're only seeing one side of the argument.
Opening with various maladies that people have suffered, and the problems they faced with their health insurance (or lack of), we're immediately hit with a seemingly never ending catalogue of woe, complete with syrupy violin and piano music to really tug on those heartstrings. Obviously what's happened to these people is terrible, and their cause deserves attention, but there's the nagging suspicion that you're being played along a little bit, just in case the message isn't quite getting through.
Once Holy Mother of Michael has completely assured us that should we ever fall ill in the US, we're beyond hope, he takes a look at the healthcare systems in other parts of the world, including Canada (where Americans go when they can't afford treatment), France (where seemingly everything is free and you can take months of work without question if you need to), and the UK. Now, this is where we see the one-sided nature of Moore's film. The NHS Hospitals that Moore visits to demonstrate UK healthcare are in Kensington and Chelsea. The doctors are paid well, and everyone looks blissfully happy with their free hospital experience. What we don't see is the effect that US style healthcare is increasingly having on the UK, with more and more people opting to go private. Moore also ignores the problems that any free healthcare system faces, especially the financial problems rife in any such system.
So, ignoring the counter arguments in the same way Michael Moore has, we move onto the grand finale, and this is classic Michael Moore. In much the same way as UK equivalents such as Mark Thomas have done, Moore specialty has often been in exposing the ridiculousness inherent in any given system through means of a large scale stunt. On discovering the healthcare available in Guantanamo Bay that ordinary Americans are not allowed at home, Moore takes three boatloads of 9/11 rescue workers to seek medical help, before ending up in a Cuban hospital in Havana. This is perhaps the highlight of the film though any good will built up with this section is almost immediately killed off by an act of self-publicity so false and snide that it threatens to ruin the whole film.
An entertaining film certainly, but don't expect to see a balanced, constructive appraisal of how to deal with the healthcare nightmare facing the US.