Not everyone is a fan of the genre, but documentaries serve an important purpose. From one point or another, they showcase to us an aspect of life many would have never known had the documentary’s story not been told . Exactly how many of you would have begun looking into Steven Avery’s police case had you not watched Netflix’s own Making a Murderer? Such is the story of Lotje Sodderland, a woman whose tale could have easily been just another statistic had it not been for her previous work in film-making and her connection with Sophie Robinson.
My Beautiful Broken Brain is a Netflix original documentary that focuses on Lotje Sodderland’s battle with regaining her reading and writing abilities. One night after falling asleep, Lotje awoke to an immense amount of pain coming from her head, feeling as if she was dying. Due to such a colossal pain hindering her abilities, all Lotje could do was stumble into a nearby hotel and collapse in their bathroom. After being rushed to the hospital, it was discovered she had suffered a brain hemorrhage, severely impacting her abilities to read, write and talk to those around her. Choosing to document her day-to-day experiences through post-stroke life, Sodderland came together with fellow filmmaker Sophie Robinson in order to create this documentary as a way of bringing awareness to fellow victims of bleeding in the brain.
The beautiful thing about My Beautiful Broken Brain is how well it does just that. From the minute one starts following Lotje’s journey, you’ll be provided a new intellectual and psychological perspective that you’ve likely never seen before in a documentary. Lotje isn’t afraid to bear everything she’s enduring through her mental struggles, whether in her cognitive therapy or seeing the post-stroke effects. Personally, I have never known anyone who was a victim of a brain hemorrhage, but this documentary piece does a fantastic job of showing the ups and the downs that come with the recovery process.
Likewise, Lotje’s decision to record herself using her personal phone’s camera was an excellent decision, due in large part to making the picture feel all the more personal. The shots do not feel in any way, shape or form staged, all we’re given is the barefaced reality of someone trying to regain their fundamental thought process. One line especially stuck with me when she described what it was like dealing with her new-found dilemmas:
“Silence in the brain doesn’t exist here.”
With input of Lotje Sodderland’s friends and family on her past accomplishments and vigorous qualities, we’re able to see the highs and the lows of just about everything, making this already steadfast stroke victim even more compelling to investigate further.
Still, even with such a compelling story and individual at the forefront of this piece, there are some problems with the overall production. Throughout the run time, certain special effects are overlain atop some footage to see what things would be like through Lotje’s eyes. Sometimes, it works really well. Other times, it comes off as fairly distracting and out-of-place. One shot in particular held no real value to the film as a whole, where we see a camera person’s shadow grow angel wings. This happens early on, and perhaps it was Lotje whom was holding the camera, but it frankly came off as ultimately forced. This isn’t the only example of unnecessary or over-usage in special effects, it just happens to be one of the many that stood out the most.
On a side note, it also doesn’t help that things can grind to a halt at certain sections, especially towards the unfocused ending. It’s by no means a major issue for the film as a whole, but the ending doesn’t quite leave the audience with enough for a satisfactory conclusion. We don’t get much of that “what is she doing now” aspect towards the conclusion, only a blip or two about how she’s now married. I genuinely wanted to know how her struggle was going, and or whether she was raising awareness outside of the picture.
However, despite these few gripes, My Beautiful Broken Brain is without a doubt a documentary worth watching on Netflix. To those who have never seen someone suffer a stroke, you’ll learn something new about the medical issue. To those who’ve seen the effects first hand, this film will likely earn a special place in your heart. Lotje Sodderland, thank you for sharing your story with us. Everyone has a tale to tell, as yours is unconditionally one many need to hear from beginning to end.