'All the Rage': Film Review

Courtesy of Subject
An unpolished but effective call for attention to ideas that buck the medical establishment.

Larry David, Howard Stern and others sing the praises of Dr. John Sarno's alternative approach to chronic pain in Michael Galinsky's new doc.

Is that crippling back pain that flares up now and then, leaving you writhing on the floor, all in your head? Do you owe your carpal-tunnel symptoms not to your workplace posture but to your parents' emotional failings? Those are the suggestions of All the Rage, which champions the work of retired physician John Sarno, author of books including Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. Though sometimes ungainly as a piece of cinema, the film manages to be persuasive while avoiding the insistent pitch that sometimes makes other alternative-medicine docs sound like conspiracy theories. Even so, it's unlikely to influence anywhere near as many people as the support Sarno has received from celeb endorsers like Howard Stern.

Galinsky, one of three credited directors here, makes himself the doc's star, introducing us to Dr. Sarno through his repeated encounters with the man and his books. The persistent first-person perspective makes more sense here than in many docs, but the specifics of Galinsky's case — he evidently believes that his disabling bouts of back pain originate in his relationship with his loving but prickly father — aren't explored with enough finesse to overcome a skeptical viewer's impatience.

The filmmakers might have given more screen time to first-person tales from patients like Stern, Larry David and author Jonathan Ames, who (along with less famous interviewees) describe how longstanding pain melted away as they understood and accepted Sarno's premise: that their pain was not caused by structural issues or injury but by the wholly psychosomatic Tension Myoneural Syndrome.

The doc is sketchy about just how TMS works, but many viewers will have observed the links between emotional and physical pain intimately enough not to need convincing. Similarly, we intuitively understand how Sarno's theories might make him unpopular among doctors — many of whom would see their practices wither if his ideas proved true and caught on — but the film offers less detail than it should about how he became a best-selling author without winning the respect of his peers.

Narrative shortcomings aside, All the Rage should send many viewers straight to the bookstore, where they can find further enlightenment straight from Sarno himself.

Venue: DOC NYC
Production company: Rumur Inc.
Directors: David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley
Producers: David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky
Director of photography: Michael Galinsky
Editor: Suki Hawley

Not rated, 92 minutes

comments powered by Disqus