What to watch this weekend: Afflicted and more
In the interest of entertainment diversity and respecting busy weekend schedules, we've divvied this up into a full-commitment TV series watch and a movie sitting.
A growing number of people are suffering from afflictions that have no agreed upon cause or cure. This docuseries follows seven people as they search for a relief from their afflictions, with the first episode introducing us to Carmen, Jamison and Bekah. Their life experiences are eye-opening to say the least.
Carmen insists she has Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). She allows no mobile phones or smart watches in her house due to the EMF waves she perceives from mobile towers, radio broadcasts, Wi-Fi and even fluorescent lights. Bombarded by modern-day things, EHS folk have to deal with mood swings, headaches and sleep deprivation (to the point where some sufferers use lead netting on their beds).
Meanwhile, out in Tuolumne, CA, we have a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) sufferer named Jamison. He's an ex-body building college student who's been through six doctors and hasn't left his room in two years. Jamison's been completely bedridden by an affliction that he says saps his energy and causes pain from basic movement and a radically increased sensitivity to light and sound.
Last but not least, Bekah lives in a van out in the desert of Yucca Valley, CA, purely to avoid mould. Admittedly she's a little unorthodox, being both a witch and a psychic, but her physical reactions to fungi are considerable (nosebleeds and nasty infections). She's basically a full-blown medical refugee who, like Carmen and Jamison, earnestly wishes to get better, or at least understand what's happening. That journey of discovery comes with some hard truths and controversial diagnoses.
What's it like?
The rocky road to each subject's “recovery” is a tough watch to be honest. I consumed the first few episodes as a bit of a community watch with friends and the feeling in the room constantly shifted back and forth from “are we watching a bunch of attention-seeking hypochondriacs?” to “this series isn't doing these undiagnosed and misunderstood illnesses justice”. Personally, I was riveted but couldn't say where my own thoughts landed by the halfway point. I'm still processing and doing my own research.
But the main fact is that instances of chronic diseases are very much on the rise. Are they psychosomatic? Can it all be psychological? Modern medical science is struggling to figure that out because many of the afflictions presented lack a single biomarker or test that can pinpoint the problem. If nothing else, Afflicted is a must-watch purely as a conversation starter.
- Stream it on Netflix
Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018)
Now here's a bit of Indian cinema that deserves wider international acclaim. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero centres on three friends: bookish graphic novelist Rajat and his drugged-out cronies Bhavesh and Sikandar. Basically, they're a mismatched tripod of misfits who share a common passion for anti-corruption marches in Mumbai and getting arrested for street cred.
This is why, in a moment of stoner clarity, one of these loveable clowns comes up with an idea: why should they sit around complaining about the corruption of their country when action could be taken as (subpar) superheroes? Thus begins Insaaf TV, a guerilla broadcast where grave injustices, like poor Internet connections and public urination, are righted by Bhavesh and Sikandar wearing paper bags on their heads. What follows is a pretty amusing parody of blockbuster comic book films and the superficiality of Internet fame.
Fast forward five years and the cold hard reality of adulthood, responsibility and a lack of headway on the justice front has fractured the crew. Now running solo, Bhavesh's superhero tale takes a darker DC Comics-style turn when he uncovers a high-profile water siphoning conspiracy run by bonafide murderous thugs. Soon enough what once started as an idealistic lark becomes a deadly serious game of survival that pushes the Insaaf crew to actual violence and vigilantism.
What's it like?
Be prepared for a m-a-s-s-i-v-e tonal shift roughly 30 minutes into this. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is incredibly light-hearted and silly in its opening moments but this wacky honeymoon period gives way to a heavier origin story. That inconsistency will be jarring for more than a few viewers. The excessive runtime will put more of you off, too.
Stick with it, though, and you'll be rewarded with quite a decent noir-ish thriller that's bursting with unique Hindi flavour. This is less Batman Begins and more Kick-Ass set in Mumbai – equal parts fisticuffs, action set pieces and Mumbai-centric moral messaging. It's a tried and true Hollywood formula we've not really seen in Indian cinema up until this point. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero may have its issues but it's way more hit than miss. If you're after something different. I say suit up, give it a watch and make a change.
- Stream it on Netflix
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