This is a perplexing film. Emma Caris was a very beautiful, evidently intelligent and gifted Dutch girl. Her family is obviously rather wealthy, given the level of medical care and other opprotunities they provided her. Yet, and in spite of all her gifts, Emma starved herself to death at the age of eighteen in 2015. As she was dying, she filmed footage of her struggle meant to be made into a documentary recording her ultimate recovery or death. This film is the fruit of that, her final endeavor.
It's strange then, that despite her apparently having filmed so much of the last part of her short life, that so little of that footage actually made it into this documentary. Most of the film consists of interviews with her parents, a couple friends/schoolmates, and three therapists/caregivers who attended her in her last days at a beachside hospice on the Portuguese coast. Very little of it actually features footage of her, perhaps only 5%.
These interviews, while mildly interesting, never really cut to the chase. They describe what happened, but dance - pirouette - around the question of why it happened.
They all - her parents, friends, caregivers - seem very compassionate and caring. Concerned. They were definitely concerned about her, it clearly shows.
What they fail to demonstrate is any outrage or anguish. I watched them all the entire film, and at the very end it dawned on me that their compassion was far too dispassionate. Their attentiveness was unimpeachablly pitch perfect, comprehensive.. So flawless that by the very end I felt it too pristine.
I tried to put myself in their place. I imagined if my daughter or anyone else I love had done this to herself.. And all I could imagine is anger. I would be (f bomb)ing furious. I'd be angry at her, myself, God, her pathetic inept "caregivers," the universe.
Emma's parents and her two primary caregivers ("French guy" and "blonde woman") seem to exude something verging on concerned indifference. They all talk on about how wonderful Emma was, and describe her last days in detail. Like I say, they were all very clearly well concerned. But only one of the seven or so people interviewed - her third caregiver, the woman with brown hair not the blond - seemed to me markedly disturbed by her death.
The most glaring evidence that they do not truly care is that none of them make the slightest attempt to address the most salient questions: Why did she do this? Why was she sick? How is it that someone who superficially had so much to live for came to starve herself to death? How is it that you all seem so detached, dispassionate after basically assisting at Emma's suicide? What exactly was the etiology of her pathology? What darkness festered within her that you all smoothly elide?
I've never had an eating disorder. But I have wrestled with obsessive compulsive behaviour. It bloomed from anxiety, a feeling of powerlessness, a visceral impulse to protect myself and control my surroundings. I needed to defend myself most especially from the cruelty and capriciousness of other people. I couldn't control them or the universe, so I developped neurotic fetishes controlling my own behaviour and immediate environment. Ironically, this pathological impulse to control resulted in loss of control, an addiction.
I think this is similar to what eating disorders are: manifestations of profound insecurity, self destructive attempts to gain power. They are an incipient form of suicide, a pathological power play, a (pen)ultimate attempt at freedom by way of self annihaltion.
Like every pathology and sickness anorexia and bulemia must have environmental, biological, social, emotional, spiritual catalysts. I watched this film hoping Emma's story would shed some insight into her plight, help me understand how she became so sick, why she died. That so many people - gifted, wonderful people like her - suffer from these afflctions is mystifying and disturbing.
There is something dreadfully wrong with our culture that so many of us succumb to these diseases. I'd like to understand what it is. This film doesn't even try to delve into this question. I don't know why not. Perhaps it's because exploring this might reveal truths unflattering to the people closest to Emma?
Remember that anger is not always bad. Often lack of anger means you simply don't care. Maybe if certain people had become angry, Emma might still be here.