In a Year of Strong Documentaries, 'The Fix' Deserves to Be Remembered

Laura Naylor's impressive new doc, which recently screened at the SOHO International Film Festival and will soon be seen at AFI Docs, focuses on the challenges facing recovering heroin addicts who are afflicted with hepatitis C.
Laura Naylor/The Fix
"The Fix"

At a time when the Hollywood studios seem to have run out of ideas — one recently released a sequel to a reboot of a comic-book-inspired franchise that itself was less than a decade old, and that was one of the better films of the year — the single source of consistent, high-quality sustenance for movie lovers is the documentary genre.

This year's standout docs, as we approach the mid-year point, include Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (IFC Films), Anita (Samuel Goldwyn Films), Jodorowsky's Dune (Sony Pictures Classics), Finding Vivian Mayer (IFC Films), The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (Zeitgeist Films), Dancing in Jaffa (Sundance Selects) and Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (RADiUS-TWC).

Another that hasn't received as much attention as those because it is still seeking a domestic distributor, but which impressed many at the recent SOHO International Film Festival (winnning the best documentary prize) and will next be screened at AFI Docs on June 19, is Laura Naylor's The Fix.

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Naylor, whose only previous credit was for co-directing the 2012 doc Duck Beach to Eternity, has crafted a poignant portrait of life during recovery for those who are lucky enough to survive heroin addiction. Inspired to pursue the subject by two friends — one a recovering heroin addict, the other a counselor at a methadone clinic — she focused her lens on a group of former junkies from the Bronx who are receiving methadone treatment for hepatitis C. "Hep C" is a common and often deadly byproduct of shooting heroin with a previously used hypodermic needle; the liver-attacking virus already affects more than five times as many Americans as HIV and now leads to a higher number of deaths.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, one of the people she follows is Junior, a charismatic 34-year-old husband and father of two girls — one a 16-year-old from his first marriage, the other a toddler from his second and current marriage — who emerges as the film's primary subject. For years, Junior lived in New York as a junkie, in the process abusing his wife, neglecting his first child and putting his own life in serious jeopardy. We learn that he knowingly used a needle that had been used by a person with hep C because he craved a fix so badly, thereby putting himself in the terrible predicament where we find him in the film.

But following an epiphany of sorts, in Houston, where he was living about a year before the film begins, Junior has elected to return to New York, with his wife and younger daughter, to do whatever he can to prolong his life and stay clean so that he can be a better father the second time around than he was the first. He also discovers a therapeutic way to confront his past, chart his future, help others and endear himself to his older daughter: by sharing his story, which he does — courageously, candidly and eloquently — with anyone who cares to listen. As it turns out, many do.

With a run time of just 70 minutes, the film offers a brisk and moving look at one man's epic journey, providing hope and inspiration to recovering addicts and people who know one -- which encompasses just about everybody.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg