Jennifer's Review of A Life Without Pain
A Life Without Pain(2005)
Of course on some level I knew that without pain we never learn to be safe. And that also, without pain, there is the image that always comes up of a person putting their hand on a hot stove and not feeling it and not understanding that they just damaged their body. Still, this movie drives it home with the story of the little girl who, when she was younger, kept poking her eyeballs to the point of developing glaucoma and going blind in one eye. She felt no pain when she jammed her fingers into her eyeballs and just kept doing it, and then her parents wound up putting this gel into her eyes so that they wouldn't scar too much, but then the gel caused the glaucoma in that one eye. And that eye's iris ended up looking very swollen and alien and sick, so the whole eyeball ended up being removed so that they could put a fake one in to look more normal. Part of me blames modern medicine for being so backward if it prescribes gel that causes side effects as bad as glaucoma; another part of me wonders why they had to remove the eyeball at all, thinking that there could have been something to reverse it, that ripping it all out is just too brutal and final, period. Either way, this condition - called congenital analgesia - is so rare that currently there are only about 100 people in the world who have it. Of course modern medicine is not going to know crap about what to do about people like these.
I felt for Gabby, this little girl, who had to have her eye removed. If I were her later on, I would be furious at myself for being so inclined to put my fingers in my eyes all the time. I wondered if her teeth were removed as well, because the shape of her face looked off, reminiscent of old people without dentures. I hope those were only her baby teeth. So in the end she was born with a perfectly fine body besides feeling no pain, and she winds up with all these conditions that borderline disability, all self-inflicted.
There are two other stories featured in this movie, one of seven-year-old Miriam in Norway and another of ten-year-old Jamilah in Germany. I had thought that each story would take up an equal third of the film, but these stories ended up being shorter and significantly less heart wrenching. Both of these other children apparently did not feel the overwhelming need to stick fingers in eyeballs earlier on in life, because neither had any mentioned eye conditions, thank goodness. I think the luckiest of these two was Jamilah, because she appeared to have the least amount of medical conditions. However, because she apparently felt no pain, a group of guys in her class beat her up repeatedly just to see if it was true. It must have been awkward for both parties, and it must have been hard to believe that someone could actually not feel anything when being punched in the gut. Jamilah didn't seem to be too affected by the whole thing besides maybe being emotionally offended at their animiosity. Again, if I haven't said it before, I can't really imagine it.
It would be interesting to find out what has happened to these kids, say, five or ten years down the road. It turns out that people with this condition can live normal lives, as at the end of the movie it was revealed that some adult woman in New York had been living with it for thirty years and had kids of her own. I wish I could have seen what her life was like.
This movie reminds me of Praying With Lior: a low-key film that highlighted some very interesting people with exceptional challenges. I would hope, though, that as these three girls grow up, they will be better able to compensate their inability to feel pain with logic and reasoning. It appears to be possible. And, oh yeah, this is a great film to watch if you are feeling the need to put a positive spin on something generally thought of as negative.