Brain on Fire: Movie Review

Lately I seem to be watching a lot of movies that are either documentaries on drugs, pain, disease, or fictional narratives on the same subject matter. In the case of this Netflix original, it’s actually based on a true story about a woman in her twenties who ends up being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.

As someone who struggles with an autoimmune disease, there are clear signs very early into the movie, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Susannah, a New York Post reporter who has been healthy her whole life, up to the point where the movie begins. Numbness on the left side of her body, and a feeling of being “off” were the flags for me as a viewer. The movie does make you want to second guess this though. Could she be schizophrenic as her doctors believe? She hallucinates and hears voices after all. But then she has three seizures, which is why her parents keep pushing doctors to find another answer. Schizophrenics don’t typically have seizures. As someone who is taking courses in psychology, I can see how the doctors would come to this conclusion. Especially after all her tests come back normal. Normal for autoimmune, normal for infectious diseases, normal for everything. It isn’t until a specialist comes and does a number of other tests and uses some ingenuity that her rare disease is discovered (she’s only the 217th person to ever be diagnosed with it).

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The movie itself is a bit scary; to think that something like this can happen to someone young and healthy, and the symptoms themselves are a bit terrifying. But remember, this is a true story. This is what people with autoimmune diseases, and especially rare ones go through. The biggest takeaway I got from the film, and one everyone should get, is how important it is to keep pushing for answers. If you feel that the doctors are misdiagnosing you, or dismissing you, don’t just sit back and accept it. Seek other opinions. Find the answer.

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Overall, I would give the movie itself 3/5. But the message of the film I give 5/5. Be your own health advocate.