April 30, 2018  (Web Review)

Written Off

(2017) 61 min. DVD: $89: public libraries; $250: colleges & universities. DRA. The Video Project (www.videoproject.com). PPR. Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Molly Hermann’s documentary focuses on the damaging effects of the opioid epidemic by highlighting one bright young life that was tragically destroyed by pharmaceutical abuse. Matt Edwards was a charming, intelligent teen in small-town Wisconsin who excelled in school theater and was beloved by his contemporaries. But after a poorly coordinated outpatient surgery to deal with ingrown toenails, he was prescribed powerful pain medication. Edwards quickly became addicted, claiming that the medication made him feel as if he was “touched by God,” although he realized the damage it was doing to his life. Edwards kept in-depth journals that detailed his efforts to overcome his addiction and his repeated return to destructive habits. The acute change in Edwards’s life was captured in videos and photographs that showed the once-sunny teen transform into a very different personality. Interviews with his mother, ex-girlfriends, and various acquaintances offer greater insights into Edwards’s downward spiral into crime, jail, emotional isolation, and a premature death by drug overdose. A powerful documentary about the human tragedy created by the opioid crisis, this is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)