Review by Sean Boelman
An interesting portrait of a once-respected figure falling from grace, The Blech Effect is a surprisingly affecting documentary. And while the film does perhaps suffer from trying to juggle a few too many themes, filmmaker David Greenwald has created a sad but important cautionary tale.
The movie tells the story of David Blech who, after being one of the earliest and most influential inventors in the biotech industry, struggles with mental illness and gambling addiction, leaving him in a situation where he is facing prison time. Blech isn’t super charismatic, and his actions are pretty consistently frustrating. Yet he is still a sympathetic subject nevertheless.
Blech’s story is akin to that of a classic tragic hero. It is his own flaws that drag him down, and while he has the will and desire to conquer his issues, they often prove to be too insurmountable of a challenge for him to face alone. It’s heartbreaking to see this man trying to improve himself yet fail because of his circumstances.
Films about addiction often address the more hot button issue of drug addiction, but Blech’s story serves as an important reminder of how other forms of addiction can be just as harmful. And despite Blech’s claims to the contrary, it’s not just the addict who is affected, it’s everyone around him as well.
Perhaps the most affecting portion of the movie is that which explores Blech’s family life. In addition to his own struggles, Blech has to worry about his son who is on the autism spectrum. This familial drama provides much of the stakes for the main conflict of the film, and it creates a greater emotional investment.
The area in which the narrative falls flat is in its discussion of Blech’s contributions to biotech. While it is understandable that the movie wants to focus on his personal life, a greater understanding of his professional accomplishments beyond blind praise would have been beneficial to the film’s impact.
Greenwald’s approach to tell the story is a mostly traditional fly-on-the-wall technique, but the frequently prolonged scenes really draw the viewer into the subject’s world. There is also an animated courtroom sequence, set to audio taken from the trial, which is one of the most cinematic moments in the movie.
A bit messy at times, but mostly very good, David Greenwald’s documentary The Blech Effect tells the story of a tragic figure you’ve probably never heard of. However, in making his experiences relatable to the common person, it’s a very compelling watch.
The Blech Effect hits VOD on August 25.