Director, distance thyself.
That thought is likely to enter your mind during “All the Rage,” a documentary that has found itself one fascinating subject — Dr. John Sarno — yet too often pulls away from him to focus on the less compelling story of its director.
Dr. Sarno, who specialized in rehabilitation medicine at New York University before retiring, has posited for decades that many types of chronic pain, particularly back pain, are caused by stress and repressed emotions. In such cases, he eschews drugs or surgeries. Instead, he counsels patients to consider the connection between their minds and their bodies, and that way decrease their discomfort through psychological understanding.
Such ideas, we’re told, have caused Dr. Sarno, now in his 90s, to be shunned by the medical establishment. His theories and books, however, have been championed by the likes of Howard Stern and Larry David, who are interviewed here along with plenty of noncelebrities. Their testimonials come across as well informed and thoughtful.
Michael Galinsky, one of the film’s directors (with Suki Hawley and David Beilinson), sought Dr. Sarno’s help for back pain. Recounting his own experiences for the documentary is an intriguing plan. But the scenes he chooses take up too much time — we meet Mr. Galinsky’s cute children and hear of his complicated parents; we attend his brother’s wedding — that could have been used to explore Dr. Sarno’s views further, or to hear from some of the countless doctors who, it’s said, dispute his claims and methods.
Nevertheless, “All the Rage” overrides most of its shortcomings by keeping a breezy tone and by showing Dr. Sarno to be a convincing speaker, as well as an affable and somewhat crusty character. While this documentary leaves you wanting to know more about his beliefs, the introduction alone is valuable enough.
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