Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

| March 31, 2011

Amidst the much debated, complex culture of our nation’s food and weight issues, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a touchingly simple tale.
Growing up back and forth between Australia and the States, Joe Cross, the creator and star of this low-budget documentary, becomes a self-made man in the Australian stock market and quickly lives the part. Vacations, cars, drinks and food were taken in excess and Joe began to pay. To make things worse, Joe developed an extremely rare auto-immune disease, which he described basically as “chronic hives.” It is soon impossible for Joe to ignore that the combination of medications and side effects has ballooned him to 100lbs. overweight and continue with his lifestyle would kill him before he turned 40.
This is when Joe decides to travel to America and begin what he calls a “reboot.” After talking to multiple doctors, dieticians and family, he decides that he is going to perform a 60-day “juice fast” and film the experience for the world to see. He intends to spend 30 days in New York and the second 30 traveling the country with the hopes of spreading the message of rebooting the body. Along the way, Joe remarkable meets Phil, a 430 lb. truck driver who has the exact same disease.
Joe gets lucky. Up until this point in the film, you can tell he lacks the clear goal it takes to create a moving documentary and a heavy dose of animation makes it feel a bit like an after school special. His wealth is also hard to ignore. Fasting for 60 days and drinking only juice would be much harder working full-time and living on a budget.
Lacking a goal, he wanders. He does the cliché public-opinion, person-on-the-street interviews and begins down the road of so many before, like Supersize Me, Food Inc. and No-Impact Man, to show the ugly and extravagant side of America. When Phil comes along, Joe’s movie is saved and his goal is powerful and clear: Save Phil’s life.
From here, Joe and Phil discover through a series of medical tests that it is literally do or die. They work together to get Phil on his own re-boot and juice fast while Joe continues to lose weight and heal his body. We start to see the soul that I expect most people struggling with weight have: the desire to be healthy in the face of addiction. We meet Phil’s family and hear his ambitions and Joe’s film finds its voice. The campy animation and band-aid voiceover are forgotten and Phil’s survival is front and center.
The changes that both Phil and Joe make over the course of this film are nothing short of remarkable. In fact, they are down right frustrating. How can these two men, after struggling most of their adult lives, make such a sharp turn? What is stopping the rest of our country from healing itself like Joe and Phil? Joe answers these questions during honest interviews with normal Americans and the courage and strength that Phil and Joe have quickly become abundantly special.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, more than the shock and awe docs mentioned before, puts a face to the epidemic and forces us to consider the consequences of our food choices. The film makes the issue personal. It isn’t corporate or theatrics but instead it’s private and revealing. The message is painfully simple: Small changes can save your life.

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