Review by Andrew Wertz
Stink!, the debut documentary feature from Jon J. Whelan, explores and exposes the practices of many corporations as they roll out consumer products laden with unnamed and potentially dangerous chemicals. The documentary works as both a social and a personal documentary, as it explores the corruption and deception of American corporations, as well as a father’s attempts to honor his late wife and protect his children as best as he can.
As a film, Stink! is both engaging and entertaining, as the film starts with Whelan discovering that his daughters’ brand new pajamas literally stink of chemicals. Whelan cannot even find the names of the chemicals, as they are protected as trade secrets by the company, but tests results reveal numerous chemicals, some of which even cause cancer, in the clothes. From there, Whelan starts to explore the industry and its numerous loopholes and deceptive practices.
Through his research and interviews, Whelan reveals how many potentially toxic chemicals (and even some that have been definitively linked to cancer and illness) are being used in consumer products while not being listed, as they fall under trade secrets or other manufacturer loopholes.
The documentary does an excellent job at breaking down the scientific and legal terminology that is often purposefully confusing, and plainly presenting the situation of chemical regulation in America to the audience. The film itself doesn’t seem like it’s dumbing down the content, but instead presenting it clearly and concisely. The issue of regulation in industry is very complicated, and while Stink! has its own bias, it lets the opposition speak for itself through interviews and footage from congress, although it often skims over the major drawbacks and difficulties that would come with strict regulation.
As the film wears on, it tends to repeat its main points and cover the same topics again and again, but Whelan keeps the film’s focus pointed on several key points of regulation and chemical control. The film explains the issues with the chemicals themselves, the issues with regulation, and offers some solutions to toxic chemicals infiltrating our everyday lives in simple consumer products.
Opening in NY | November 27th
Opening in LA | December 4th