Documentary Releases: To the Edge of the Sky (2017) - Reviewed

Earlier this year I took a gander at documentary filmmaking brothers Jedd and Todd Wider’s fleeting and mysterious God Knows Where I Am about a fifty-something woman’s descent into madness and death.  While critically acclaimed it for the Errol Morris inspired dramatizations, the meandering ‘documentary’ otherwise left yours truly largely indifferent and restless. 
Not long thereafter, however, the Wider brothers returned with To the Edge of the Sky, an instantly gripping, heart-wrenching tale of a group of families fighting for their son’s lives who are dying from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Light at the end of the tunnel for these children seems to be in the form of an experimental drug, unfortunately administered however to a select few test subjects with the FDA hesitant to approve the potentially live saving drug.

More than making up for the previous film’s absence of narrative thrust, you would never know this was from the same team.  Within the first five minutes of hearing a tear streaked father describing how he ‘will go to the edge of the sky to save my child’, the film has you by the throat.  By the end of the journey with these families you’ll be left with a variety of mixed emotions about the tug of war battle between the Food and Drug Administration and the families strategically racing uphill against time and bureaucratic loopholes to save their children from the fatal disease. 

Ditching glossy reenactments in favor of direct, undoctored interviews with the parents and cross-cutting between the families steps towards unifying against the FDA, To the Edge of the Sky is not only more focused than the filmmakers’ previous effort it can stop the informed and uninformed dead in their tracks.  Coming into the subject blank unaware of the severity of the disease until now, scenes of a young boy walking back and forth in a hallway for a medical test before his legs give out from under him are hard to shake.

While I stand by my general dismissal of their previous film, the Wider brothers have indeed displayed their true talents as compelling documentarians with To the Edge of the Sky for their ability to paint a broad picture of the struggle families with children suffering from muscular dystrophy experience.  Whether or not you or anyone in your immediate family suffers from the disease, anyone can relate to a parent doing anything and everything to save their child from a life threatening disease, even if it means going to war with a faceless conglomerate to achieve that goal.

- Andrew Kotwicki