Don’t Let This One Fly Under Your Radar. FOR LOVE & LIFE: NO ORDINARY CAMPAIGN

There’s a new film hitting Prime today that will be easy to overlook.

It’s a documentary.

About a terminal disease.

The title is a mouthful.

It doesn’t come off as an appealing pitch, and it’s not going to be the one you reach for as a fun evening’s entertainment.

But For Love and Life: No Ordinary Campaign is an incredible true story of one couple’s journey to bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation: totally inspiring, engrossing, and heroic. In some ways it’s also absolutely gut-wrenching, and for both reasons I was moved to tears throughout most of the film.

An opening narration sets the stage for its theme: We tend to not think about problems, even very big ones, when they don’t impact us directly. That experience became a lesson for Brian Wallach, a successful lawyer and political insider who was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2017.

I didn’t know much about about this disease but the film explains it in understandable terms: a debilitating and ultimately terminal illness in which the victim is gradually weakened until they are incapacitated and die. In the relatively short time in which this takes place (a few months or perhaps a few years at most), they are betrayed by their body with diminishing motor control and slurring speech. Eventually they are too immobilized to perform basic self care, and death is likely to occur by asphyxiation as the body struggles to continue to breathe.

Brian met his wife Sandra when they were both working for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The pair hit it off and eventually married. They were professionally successful and politically active; and with the arrival of children, a seemingly ideal family – until Brian received a surprise ALS diagnosis which rocked their world.

They were met with the all-too-common standard response: It’s an incurable disease with no treatment, and no hope. Get your affairs in order and just try to enjoy, as best you can, the few months or perhaps years you have left.

For most, this prognosis would be a kind of death sentence, but for Brian and Sandra, it was a call to action. Learning firsthand of the bureaucratic red tape and absolute dearth of support for ALS sufferers, they sought to change things. And with their experience in the political arena and with managing nonprofits, they were uniquely qualified to actually do something about it. Not merely to raise awareness, but to bring abut real and lasting change. They created the “I Am ALS” organization and movement, and petitioned for new US legislation to not only fund ALS research, but to tear down some of the biggest barriers to getting people the financial aid and treatments that can sustain or improve their lives.

It’s incredibly engrossing and deeply emotional, spending time with this couple as they take on this devastating mission and see it through to unimaginable success. Meanwhile, Brian transforms from a capable and hyper-articulate young man to speaking in low, slow mumbles and losing his mobility. Sandra, his incredible wife, weathers the storm and shows her true colors as a devoted and determined partner, becoming his voice and body. This isn’t just a medical story or political story; it’s a love story. Not just a surface-level romance, but the realest and rawest kind of love – the kind that really hurts. Unconditional, deep-in-the-trenches, in-sickness-or-in-health love.

While centered on the story of Brian and Sandra, the film also interviews other sufferers, families, and activists, sharing their stories and providing additional context – and faces – to the reality of ALS.

Sometimes watching movies about difficult subject matter can feel like a chore, but I urge everyone to check this one out. It’s an incredible true story and as inspiring as it is devastating.

A/V out.

Watch the film on Amazon Prime:
Learn more about the film and ALS here:

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