Any One of Us SXSW Film Review
Capturing the story of professional mountain biker Paul Basagoitia, director Fernando Villena's intimate documentary Any One of Us reveals how life can change in an instant for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries. After a horrific fall during a biking competition, Basagoitia undergoes surgery and physical therapy in an attempt to regain movement in his legs. Featuring interviews with various other individuals who have had accidents and have had no choice but to cope and continue to persevere with their spinal cord injuries, Any One of Us shows not only the vast and intensive physical therapy that patients must undergo, but also the hardships, determination and triumph they endure despite their perceived limitations.
With the use of Basagoitia's handheld camera and dispersed clips of interviews from a number of individuals with spinal cord injuries, Villena's documentary portrays both a detailed record of recovery along with the remarkable difficulties and hopes that come from people of all walks of life. Basagoitia's healing process is a gradual one, with simple tasks like urinating and standing without assistance considered a leap of success. The days of him in the hospital feel like living in a bubble; recuperating with a team of physical therapists and living in an environment that are helpful and necessary to his needs are quickly taken away from him as he learns how to cope with and continue his therapy out in the real world. One woman laments the fact that she often feels like a burden, with things as seemingly simple as a gate blocking the way for her wheelchair turning into an arduous situation. We continually take for granted our physical strength and mobility, rarely viewing our ability to walk as something truly extraordinary until it's gone. Often cited as feeling like they are in an entirely new body, survivors must adjust their mindset to their new normalcy, which more often than not leads to feelings of overwhelming depression and isolation. "Grief" is a term that's often used in the interviewee's responses to dealing with the sudden loss of what once was and an ability that they may never be able to experience again. Often the focus from outsiders is on the person's physical incapability, and rarely do we stop to think about the emotional pain and internal feelings that these individuals are certainly processing.
The documentary reminds us of the fact that the healing process varies significantly from person to person, and that no two spinal cord injuries are ever alike. Solidifying the fact that it is futile to compare oneself to someone else who has undergone a similar trauma brings on a light of determination, an understanding and a drive to not give up after hearing the all too common phrase from doctors stating that they will never walk again. Any One of Us is a heavy but ultimately candid and hopeful documentary showing that we make do what what we have, and even through loss the journey becomes less of a need to reach a specific (physical) milestone and more about an inner peace, finding a source of strength within the mind and allowing our spirit to continue to persevere.