2021 Philadelphia Film Festival: The First Wave Movie Review

2021 Philadelphia Film Festival: The First Wave Movie Review
"The First Wave," the latest documentary from seasoned filmmaker Matthew Heineman, captures the desperation of the early days of the COVID outbreak in New York City. With stunning immediacy, Heineman plunges viewers into the middle of contagion response efforts at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where from March through June of 2020 he followed the stories of patients and medical staff whose day to day dramas are woven together into a heartbreakingly vivid picture of the early days of the pandemic. "The First Wave" is a snapshot of our recent history that nobody wants to see, but one that's impossible to look away from.

Time, knowledge, and access to a vaccine have provided some distance from the surreal dread that characterized the initial months of the pandemic, but "The First Wave" recalls that early uncertainty by embedding with the medical staff who battle their own fears of exposure to care for desperately sick patients, and following the unpredictable stories of several of those patients. We meet Dr. Nathalie Dougé, who sums up the bewilderment of the physicians battling an epidemic unlike anything they had seen before: "It's scary - (as doctors) we're taught pattern recognition, and right now there is no pattern." Despite confessing to such fears Dr. Dougé is a calm and grounded guide as we follow her through days of grueling work; but there are moments when the façade cracks unbearably, such as a phone call she must place to notify family members of a loved one's sudden death, and we listen together to the screams of pained disbelief on the other end of the line.

ICU nurse Kellie Wunsch is the face of all the medical responders immersed in the life-or-death ordeal of NYC's COVID patients, and some of the film's most emotional passages come as we see her lead staff in a moment of silence upon losing a patient, or hear her talk about holding an iPad to allow families to say goodbye over video because the pandemic upended the customs that we otherwise expect to ease the difficulties of illness and death. But there are also bright spots here and there, and it is impossible not to feel an echoing flutter when the nurses joyfully play the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun" to celebrate a recovering patient coming off of a ventilator.

"The First Wave" follows several patients, among them Brussels Jabon, a nurse stricken with COVID late in her pregnancy who gives birth by c-section just before being put on a ventilator. Ahmed Ellis is a school security officer who likewise ends up on a ventilator, fighting for his life. Heineman intersperses hospital footage of Jabon and Ellis with scenes of their spouses and children coping with the uncertainty of their circumstances, and it is a stark reminder of the pandemic's terrible impact on families and communities.

Heineman occasionally zooms out to show the backdrop against which the hospital narratives are playing out. New York is staggering under the COVID onslaught, and the shots of mass graves being prepared, refrigerated trucks subbing as makeshift morgues, and then-Governor Cuomo's daily briefings and pleas for help from other parts of the country underscore how quickly systems tilted and threated to collapse as the pandemic ramped up. But Heineman, whose work tends to focus on heavy subjects - "Cartel Land" and "The Trade" on the international drug trade, "Escape Fire" on the failures of the US health system - never plays up the drama here. There's no editorializing, no attempt to tie threads together with a voiceover narrative; instead the filmmaker finds the story in the remarkable footage he has captured, the value of which is in the proximity and access that his camera grants us.

2021 Philadelphia Film Festival: The First Wave Movie Review By Lora Grady

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
2021 Philadelphia Film Festival: The First Wave Movie Review 2021 Philadelphia Film Festival: The First Wave Movie Review Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 05, 2021 Rating: 5


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