Documentary Review: ‘The Body Fights Back’

Review by James Lindorf

Gravitas Ventures brings director Marian Võsumets’ documentary about the pitfalls of diet culture to digital platforms, including iTunes and Apple TV, on July 13th. In “The Body Fights Back,” Võsumets followed five people from vastly different backgrounds who face similar experiences battling their bodies. Shame, starvation, obsessive exercise, binging, this group has dealt with it all as they each struggled to have the body society and the media says they should desire.

If you have or had food and body-related issues, there is someone with whom you can sympathize. Suppose you are one of the lucky people who have never questioned how others view you or how many calories you’ve consumed. In that case, it will challenge any possible prejudices. This dual approach makes “The Body Fights Back” equally eye-opening and emotional. Each of the five focal subjects gives extremely interviews talking about private matters that everyone they pass on the street couldn’t begin to imagine. But the information doesn’t end with their heartfelt disclosures. We hear from experts, including a psychotherapist, a surgeon, a body image researcher, nutritionists, and others who talk about the dieting-industrial complex. They also discuss how the media has normalized our beauty standards and how the class divide affects our health in terms of the quality of food people can afford to consume.

The 106-minute runtime takes us from the subject’s most private spaces to London’s contemporary anti-diet movement. The movement includes speaking events as well as an outdoor fashion show that celebrates everyone. The film provides a platform to underrepresented groups such as Black, LGBTQ+, and Disabled people building layers of inclusion on top of having a female director and mainly female cast.

The most significant criticism facing the film is that it doesn’t acknowledge the health ramifications of being overweight. Yes, it isn’t the only indicator of poor health but to pretend that it isn’t inhibiting your lifestyle or longevity in any way is disingenuous. With that message coming loud and clear from nearly every other form of media, maybe Võsumets purposely chose to ignore it. But that doesn’t protect the film and gives the diet industry room to attack it. They do mention that BMI is not the end all be all measurement of health. However, society is slowly moving in that direction, so that is nothing people who are hyper-focused on their bodies have not heard.

With only one oversight worth mentioning and maybe being 5-10 minutes too long, “The Body Fights Back” is a film that needs to be seen. Its comprehensive ranging message of acceptance of ourselves and others is capable of entertaining and saving lives. “The Body Fights Back” earns a 4.5 based on the strength of the message as well as its technical ability.

Genre: Documentary
Original Language: English (United Kingdom)
Director: Marian Võsumets
Release Date (Streaming): July 13th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 47m
Production Co: Lola Productions

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