Documentaries are designed by nature to educate the viewer and inform them on subjects they may not know much about. When presented with a documentary that focuses on a subject such as Down syndrome, it is something that should be educational and should inform the audience on what it is like to have Down syndrome. There is a need to have films on subject matters such as this, as there is sadly still a stigma around this condition.
Unfortunately, the documentary Handsome, directed by Luke White, does nothing to educate the audience or to shine a positive light on the condition. This film should be focused on the person that has Down syndrome, Alex, and getting to see his life. Instead, the film hovers around his brother Nicholas who is trying to decide whether he wants to continue looking after his brother or not. This level of arrogancy in the opening of the film already paints the subject in a bad light.
It is clear that Nicholas does not fully care about the integrity of the subject matter and instead wants an excuse to make a film and travel the world. There is no need for a film like this to travel across the world, in fact clearly making Alex uncomfortable and pushing him further from the limelight. Nicholas is only interested in being a Louis Theroux -type of documentarian, and yet loses sight of what it is like to make a documentary. There are clips within this film that see people dropping out of appearing in the film because they are uncomfortable with how Nicholas is handling the interviews and intimidating them to say negative things about Down syndrome.
Trying to move by the horrible narrative that is reflected in this film, the filmmaking also lacks any sophistication. The editing is a mess, with no sense of pacing or rhythm throughout, and the cinematography only highlights the worst aspects of this film. There are shots into Alex’s private life that seem to only be there to embarrass him, showing him naked and having had incidents that he can’t control, and yet they are broadcast to anyone who watches this film. It is uncomfortable to watch and does nothing to help educate the audience on Down syndrome.
The entire film is hard to watch, and yet somehow the ending makes the situation so much worse. The conclusion that Nicholas comes to at the end of this experience is downright disgusting to put in a film like this and leave the audience on. It is hard to believe that distributors and film festivals saw this film and thought it was a good one to highlight, as Handsome is easily the worst film of the year and I would highly encourage people not to check it out or to support storytelling like this. We need more films about Down syndrome, but not like this.
Handsome will be available On Demand from 30th August