A deeply personal film that sparks empathy
Long after one finishes watching Move Me, a specific scene lingers in the mind — an overhead shot of Kelsey Peterson as she lays on her back and moves her arms, flourishing and sliding them above her head. She’s dancing and the intensity on her face shows how much this means to her. It’s beautiful.
Move Me is an utterly human documentary. It follows Kelsey Peterson, a professional dancer, and her life after an accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. The documentary looks at two things — how she re-enters the world of dance and the dilemma she faces about taking part in a clinical trial.
Move Me seems less like a documentary and more like a personal memoir. Here, Peterson is not just the subject but also the writer and director. She’s not only telling her story but also choosing how to tell it. And she tells it in as raw and authentic a way as possible. Most of the film exudes a feeling of taking a peek into Peterson’s life, as if in real-time. Conversations with people, personal moments and clips from old video tapes come together to form a distinct picture of her experience. There is no drama here, only space for empathy.
She doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities either. Peterson opens up about sex and going to the toilet. We even see a personal care assistant putting on underwear and a sanitary napkin for her. The point isn’t to see how difficult disabled people have it but rather how the world has been crafted to be difficult for them.
Despite being so closely focused on the body, the film and its camera work never feels invasive. Instead it feels welcomed in, by Peterson herself, who is willingly opening up her life to us. She leaves no walls in between and opens up about her innermost vulnerabilities. Self love, guilt, the question of her identity and what makes her who she is — Peterson tackles it all in front of the camera and for that we must commend her spirit.
Although, the documentary doesn’t arrest one’s attention immediately. The pace is slow and the narrative slightly meandering. However, the wait pays off as things come together in the end. Ultimately, the documentary paints a portrait of Peterson in all her complexity. It languidly flows through her desires and fears, her complex relationship with her family and with dance itself, so by the end the viewer completely understands her. The film isn’t particularly information or action-provoking, but it is a project in empathy. In a sea of disability-related media that seeks to put people in boxes, Kelsey Peterson offers up her shoes and says, here, see how it feels.
Move Me releases on PBS November 7th 2022. You can actually check a preview out HERE!
Verdict - 7.5/10