When something has an impact on half the population, it only matters if it’s the correct half — which is why, to name a random example, it’s easier to acquire stiffy pills than prenatal care. That’s a major undercurrent throughout Jennifer Brea’s unsettling Unrest, which is about her personal struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — which has rendered her bedridden, and often floor- or ground-ridden, for much of her adult life — and the greater struggle to get the rest of world to take the condition seriously.
Brea shot much of the film on her iPhone, which often gives it the tone of a found-footage horror film. Making it all the more horrifying is the fact that not only is it real, but it’s while Brea is unable to stand up or often even move beyond crawling. She’s not being chased by a physical monster, but she and the other sufferers are no less vulnerable for that. Humans are horrible to begin with when it comes to the suffering of others, but CFS has never been taken seriously because over 85 percent of those afflicted are female. It’s long been written off as hypochondria, a “hysterical paralysis” regarding women in particular, or the nostalgically classist “yuppie flu.” Rest well, naysaying jerkwads, and pray strangers believe it when something bad inevitably happens to you.
Opens Friday at the Vogue Theater.