Playwright and actor Ben Byer’s 2002 diagnosis with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, obviously set his life on an expected path. But not even this very bright, determined and talented man could have envisioned the story he would capture upon deciding to keep this video diary to help cope with his predicament. Over the course of three years, the diary became a document of the filmmaker’s struggle with this debilitating disease, his search for a cure and the many things he would actually discover. This is a specialty film of the sort few moviegoers seek out, but those who do so will be left the better for it.
When the director/subject of Indestructible was diagnosed with ALS at age 31, he was already a successful actor and writer whose first play, Take it Deep, had just been produced to high praise. The news set the devoutly atheist Jew on a whirlwind journey (both emotionally and literally) that would come to involve his entire family, including his mother, father, older brother and sister Rebeccah, who serves as the film’s producer. Over the course of three years, Byer chronicles his valiant, sometimes wildly desperate, search for a cure. It’s a search that traverses several countries, including junkets to China for stem-cell treatments, to Israel for spiritual retreat and a host of emotional and physical upheavals that threaten to be even more destructive than the disease ravaging his body.
The result is something that is, though not necessarily unique in the annals of documentary history, as engaging as any such story can be, particularly when isolated and presented as sincerely as it is here. Which is to say with the wrenching sincerity of someone who is experiencing it and discovering, that despite what is happening to him physically or mentally, he is nevertheless
Distributor: ALS Film
Cast: Ben Byer, Stanley Appel, Barbara Byer, John Byer and Hungyun Huang
Director: Ben Byer
Producers: Rebeccah Rush and Ben Byer
Running time: 113 min.
Release date: May 30 SF