directed by Michael Moore
(Weinstein, 2007)

A funny thing happened after I finished Michael Moore's SiCKO. And as far as I can recall, it was a personal first (because of a film, anyway). To kill the suspense, I couldn't sleep. It was approaching 3 a.m. -- late, I know -- and I still failed even a wink because all I wanted to do was rewind the film in my head, recount the horror stories birthed from our troubled American health system and marvel at the universal health care system that every other western industrialized nation has adopted but us.

Is universal health care perfect? No. Does Moore make it out to be perfect? Of course. That's what he does. But it must be said: Even if his argument exposes half-truths here or there, Moore still convincingly argues the benefits of a universal system, and the release of the film is likely to open healthy discussions about America's current system. And who knows, maybe change a few things.

As stated in SiCKO, nearly 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. And contrary to what you're probably thinking, they have nothing to do with the film. Instead, Moore focuses all of his interviews -- save for one -- on the roughly 250 million Americans that are covered -- or think they're covered, as Moore investigates.

SiCKO begins with a series of everyday Americans who share their health care experiences with Moore. Some are "cute" -- a man saws off his middle and ring fingers, but can only afford to replace one, so picks his ring finger so he can still wear his wedding ring. Some are tragic -- a woman is denied service, and dies months later from an untreated cancerous brain tumor. Some are more tragic still -- a hospital refuses to treat a mother's sick baby, so en route to the hospital across town, the baby dies.

With the exception of more horror stories sprinkled throughout, the rest of the film documents the universal system in other nations. In France, government employees help new mothers by caring for the newborn, preparing meals and even doing the laundry free of charge. In England, no matter how many pills you purchase -- could be five, could be 500 -- you still pay the same flat rate of about 10 American dollars.

And like any good Hollywood movie, SiCKO delivers with a powerful ending. Turns out, America really does offer universal health care. The catch is it's only available in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States detains some of the world's most-renowned terrorists. So Moore rounds up a crew of 9/11 rescue workers with troubled health and takes them there, so that they, too, can receive the free care.

By far, SiCKO is Moore's most focused, most tightly edited and most hilarious documentary to date. And unlike Fahrenheit 9/11, which brought Moore both friends and enemies, SiCKO is a bit different. Because in this one, we're all in the same boat.

review by
Eric Hughes

25 August 2007

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