For children of the 1980s, Michael J Fox was part of our lives, from movies to television.
The young actor seemed to come from out of nowhere, and then suddenly, he was everywhere. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there was the expectation that he would fade into the misty darkness of our memories. Yet, Marty McFly has managed to keep going and remain in our minds-eye despite the impact of the vicious nature of this degenerative disease.
This story travels back into Fox’s life in Canada as an energetic and undersized boy and his eventual decision to head to Hollywood to give acting a chance. As he struggled to break into the industry then, how his eventual opportunity with Family Ties and Back to the Future took him from sitting on a crate in a studio apartment to being one of Hollywood’s most recognisable faces. Director Davis Guggenheim (He Named Me Malala) splices together footage from the Canadian actor’s lexicon of films with his real-life experiences, making this all seem like one of the star’s movies. The documentarian captures the emotions of a young star confronted with an incurable disease early in his life. Also, how his young family worked their way through his descent into the inevitable physical challenges that were to come.
Making the Most of a Tough Situation
What stands out about Michael J. Fox is his ability to win the audience regardless of any physical limitation in his life. Initially, his short stature was seen as a liability in the world of hockey players then he turned this disadvantage into a marketable asset in his career. The same can be said about his fateful diagnosis, which would seem to be a career-ending event for anyone else. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie shows how someone can take a potentially devastating diagnosis and make the most of things. Not that it doesn’t show the hardships that have come over the decades and the effect this has had on his career and life.
Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure, and this film is not one where the protagonist can say ‘we can beat this.’ Yet, Michael shows through it all that he and his family are doing all they can to squeeze as much out of life as possible. His wife and actress, Tracy Pollan, prove to be the quiet force behind the actor’s optimistic physical and mental battle. The couple allows the filmmaker to tastefully expose the extreme highs and lows of their marriage and family. Yet, no one could say this film doesn’t hit you in the stomach and break your heart as Fox’s biography unfolds on the screen. Guggenheim delivers a message of hope while capturing the hopelessness of the eventual descent into physical disability its star is moving towards.
As the curtain is pulled back and the ugliness of Parkinson’s is exposed, there is beauty and magic to be discovered in the life of Michael J.Fox. Granted, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie will leave you wanting more from the actor while giving enough to satisfy our need to know the man behind the legend. Always remember the final words of Doc in Back to the Future III, ‘It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.’ It seems as if the Fox family is still writing their story.
Reel Dialogue: Where Can You Find Hope in Suffering?
The most confronting element of Michael J. Fox’s story is that amongst all the optimism there is still a hopelessness. Despite his humorous responses to the suffering he is experiencing and the obvious love of his family, there is a bittersweetness to their lives. There doesn’t seem to be an answer to the ‘why’ behind his suffering.
Throughout our life on this earth, we strive to find comfort and seek after the least painful means of living. From pain medication to alcohol to air-conditioning, being in the Western world can be relatively pain-free, but is this the true ideal?
Looking back at history, mankind continues to prove that trials can bring out the best in us. Few people seek out difficulties in their lives because they come without having to look for them. When confronted by these challenges, personal development, and testimonies generally show what individuals have within themselves.
This is evident in biblical history, also. Each book of the Old Testament and New Testament shows that life’s tribulations provided actual growth for the people of the past, and these lessons can be a gift for us today. This is epitomised in the life and times of Jesus whose painful end brought forward the answer for all our difficulties. This is a truth that is offered to Michael J. Fox and to you.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10”
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Film publicity
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.