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Review: 66 Months

Nigel, a vulnerable thirty-something alcoholic from Oxford, slipped through the net of social services for a period of 66 months. During this time ‘in the wild’ director James Bluemel and producer Gordon Wilson followed him closely and now provide us with an utter sad and sometimes disturbingly intimate view of what life can be like in a ‘welfare state’.

The documentary 66 Months could be described as a very grim but oh so necessary portrait of a vulnerable man whose life spiralled out of control through meeting the wrong people.

We first meet Nigel after he is taken into care in an Oxford-based institution. He appears to be doing well, building up his life step by step, and getting the help he needs along the way.

In 2005 this used to be different, during flashbacks we see Nigel’s extremely vulnerable side; he’s caring, simple and ill with addiction and untreated epilepsy. He is being abused sexually, emotionally and financially – right in front of your eyes. A blow to Nigel is a blow to us as a viewer.

It is no surprise to see him carry out self-harming, after all, there is no other way to express his emotions any longer, and he is on the way to lose whatever is left of his personality and his ideals.

Though social services do no longer look after Nigel, this does not mean he is alone. Nigel has a carer. A 70 year-old man who is introduced to us by Nigel himself as “the man who was like a father to me”. A man who Nigel loved, cuddled and cared for like no other. Yet when we meet him on screen we see a man absolutely unfit for the role of caregiver. A man who sexually, emotionally and financially abuses Nigel – a man who perhaps himself fell through the cracks himself one day and got lost in an increasingly deeper darker hole.

Bluemel filmed everything over the years: we watch as the men injure each other, jerk each other off, and piss each other off, but also how they take care of one another, cook for one another, and can’t be without one another. At times as well it is unclear who looks after who.

Observing yet up-close and very personal the documentary is a true rollercoaster of heavy emotions that makes you wonder; if watching the film was tough, what must it have been like to shoot it?

 

The former IDFA film will be screening at the Curzon Soho tonight at 6.30pm as part of their DocDays series. Psychotherapist and writer, Susie Orbach will be joining the panel for a post-screening discussion. Visit the Curzon website to buy tickets or go to the 66 Months website for more information.

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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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