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IFFBoston ’17 Review: Stumped

I can’t even begin to comprehend Will Lautzenheiser’s journey as chronicled in STUMPED. The unexpected illness, the action taken to save his life, and how it has effected him and the people around him are all relatable things, which is what makes the documentary from Robin Berghaus so amazing. Something like this could happen to any of us – but would we stare this challenge in the face and keep hope alive?

Will Lautzenheiser, a filmmaker and graduate from Boston University had just accepted a film teaching job at the University of Montana – two days in, he heads to a doctor because of a persistent pain. The doctors quickly discover that it’s not just a cramp, but a serious infection that results in the medical team amputating Will’s arms and legs to safe his life.

Bergaus captures intimately the emotional challenges of taking care of a loved one in need. Will has the support structure of not only his family, but his significant other, Angel. Will’s relentless spirit and humor make for some amazing moments captured between him, his caretakers, and physical therapists. His humor and demeanor transpire into Will taking up stand-up comedy as a means of therapy. In a few scenes we get the opportunity to see Will’s hilarious set on stage at ImprovBoston.

The film offers offers some insight into the advances in experimental transplant surgery taking place at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Despite the challenges, Will concludes that the increase of his quality of life makes the risk worth taking on. It isn’t as simple as adding your name to a list, the process for finding a donor is long and arduous – as Michael, a recipient of a double-arm transplant states, it’s easy to put your recovery off while waiting for a donor.

STUMPED is a moving, special movie – Berghaus captures Will’s ability to persevere in a way that is inspiring and relatable. STUMPED shows us that while we might have a plan, sometimes life decides to change the game completely, but that we have the ability to overcome within.

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