Recovery Boys and Heroin(e): Perfect Summer Movies?
Newly released movie (June 29, 2018) on Netflix Recovery Boys chronicles an 18-month journey of four young men trying to free themselves from their opioid addiction. It is directed by Elaine McMillion and produced by Elaine McMillion, Kristi Jacobson, and Kerrin Sheldon. It is the same film team (McMillion and Sheldon) that made the documentary for Netflix titled Heroin(e). Heroin(e) was originally released on September 3, 2017 and was nominated for an Academy Award. After you see Recovery Boys, you will most likely be prompted to see Heroin(e). See both, however, maybe not on the same day as they are both wildly, oddly stunning and difficult. They are weird movies when you consider the subject matter because of the beauty of them in everything from the cinematography to the musical score to the editing and storytelling is profound. It was not surprising that Heroin(e) had been nominated for an Academy Award. However, enmeshed with all of that beauty was a startlingly harsh reality. Recovery Boys gets super real at a tender twenty minutes in, and Heroin(e) jumps off immediately. And when I say super real and jumps off I mean it—these movies do not blink.
I love love love documentary movies. It is my favorite genre of film, and seeing both of these movies reminds me why I love the genre so much. We all know about the opioid crisis. We see news of it everywhere and hear all sorts of statistics. It is yet another issue that echoes repeatedly. It can be very easy to become acclimated to the new opioid normal. Right outside the corner mart by my house—right along beer, lotto, and cigarette ads—is a large poster advertising Narcan and encouraging us all to get some, be a good sport, and save the ever-increasing pile-up of limp, nearly dead opioid users. Our nation is getting really weird. It is. But the constant news reports, along with news reports on so many other things that are demanding our attention, makes us numb to the situation. Recovery Boys and Heroin(e) will quickly rectify the situation. You will get thawed. Great documentaries can do that.
Recovery Boys follows four young men over the course of eighteen months. It begins with them entering a new rehab in West Virginia. The doctor (who we also follow) who founded the rehab did so because his son became an opioid addict and because West Virginia is grossly underserved in recovery options. As we learn in the movie Heroin(e), West Virginia is leading the country in opioid addiction, including deaths from ODs (overdoses). Both movies were shot in West Virginia. Heroin(e) follows three remarkable women who are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. One is a family court judge who created a special Drug Court program that focuses on the addict getting well versus getting punished. One is a female firefighter and EMT who is working to revolutionize the way ODs are treated and is championing the use of Narcan and the value of these young addicts’ lives. Another who is followed is a woman who started what she calls her, “bagged lunch ministry.” She works to get female prostitutes off the street and off drugs.
I know I know it’s summer—could I possibly recommend either of these movies—now? Yes. I watched Recovery Boys first then Heroin(e) the next day. They are heavy. They are tragic. However, there is also a renewed sense of humanity and hope after seeing them. You will see a naked view of what is going on—and just how difficult drug recovery is, but you will also see how some humble, hard-working people can become truly brighter than any movie or sports star. We live in a world that grit and decency and the power of good people is always drowned out by celebrities touting a cause (while in gowns and tuxedos) or a politician claiming he’ll fix all of our problems (while doing next to nothing). Both of these movies reveal the beauty and opportunity for true greatness that is possible in all of us ordinary people. And I think that is what makes them amazing summer movies. You will walk away re-jolted by just how catastrophic the opioid crisis is; however, you will also see just how amazing people can be. If you have lost a little (or a lot) of faith in humanity, these are both must-sees.
Recovery Boys Trailer (2:12)
Heroin(e) Trailer (1:45)
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.