Doc of the Week >>> A Slice of Life

DOCUMENTARY: the English Surgeon

DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Smith

REVIEWER: becky beamer

It’s been a while but Katy and I reunited this week for a Documentary viewing.  As promised in a previous post – I reviewed the English Surgeon in anticipation of the new film by Geoffery Smith.

Netflicks Summary:  Get acquainted with the work of British brain surgeon Henry Marsh, who, since his haunting first visit to a Russian hospital in the early 1990s, has been devoted to founding a quality brain surgery clinic in the former Soviet Union. Marsh cobbles together secondhand tools and used equipment from hospitals in the U.K. to treat patients in need, such as Marian, a Ukrainian man for whom Marsh is his greatest hope.

The first thing that stands out is how “very BBC” the visuals and story telling style is for this film.   This story was not assisted but a narrator which left the viewer a bit sleepy at a few points.  We were just sitting – waiting – for the narrator to push the story ahead.  I was a little disappointed by the tre conservative camerawork.  And low and behold – it was sponsored by the BBC.

On the upside – the English Surgeon did have the most tactile face I’ve seen in quite a while.  And the English Surgeon in combination with his Ukrainian counterpart were funny, insightful, and humanistic as characters.  Thier interaction inspired laughter and conversation.  I also have to admit I laughed OUT LOUD at least 3 points in the film.  On the other hand – I fell asleep about 1 hour in and woke up 15 minutes later.  At least I wasn’t the only one who took a cat nap during the same segment……. I think I can speak for Katy when I say that we both found the need to talk a bit about life, the health care system. and hard choices as the credits rolled.

It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst.  Too bad it wasn’t just 1 hour I think it would have been a 4 out of 5…..

3 out of 5 Cheers



One Reply to “Doc of the Week >>> A Slice of Life”

  1. I’d go with 3 out of 5 cheers myself.

    There’s nothing ground-breaking here, it’s pretty standard camera, editing, storytelling. And, yes, oh so very BBC. I did want some more compelling visuals to go along with a more compelling story.

    Henry Marsh takes his neuro-surgical skills to the Ukraine every year to assist in a country where people can’t get proper care and are dying from what should be curable affliction. It’s most compelling because many people don’t see him in time, and a “benign” tumor unchecked can still take over too much for the brain making it impossible for him to operate on some of the people who come to see him. He has to tell some people that they are going to die.

    It’s not a happy-go-lucky story. There are wins and losses, but the doctors and viewers have to comfort themselves with the fact that at least he is making a difference for those he can save.

    As Becky says, the doctors are very charming characters who face the problems before them with good cheer and a very human understanding. There are funny moments as they interact with each other and with a post-Soviet health care system. And seriously, the scene where they are shopping for brain surgery tools in an open air hardware store – whoa. Two doctors nerdily comparing power drills. Weird.

    It brings up a lot of debate about health care in our own country, which is often more like health management (not so much about “care”). In what ways we may be better off than we realized, but in what ways we are the same.


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