Up to 80 percent of people will get at least one of the 160 known forms of HPV in their lifetime. That includes you, so take responsibility; how much do you actually know about the Human Papillomavirus?
This 2014 documentary details the journeys of five different women who experienced cervical cancer as a result of HPV. Each has her own unique situation and has her own unique presentation of this “ubiquitous” (a descriptor used by many of the medical professionals interviewed) disease. The movie’s goal is to destigmatize HPV as something shameful or something that only affects the promiscuous. It also encourages its viewership to be tested and get the first dosage of the HPV vaccine, widely considered to be one of the greatest advancements in cancer prevention technology.
These five women take you on this emotional rollercoaster:
- Susie, a 33-year-old, Hispanic, single mother of two who didn’t visit an OB GYN until she fell pregnant.
- Kelly, a 31-year-old, white newlywed to a member of the U.S. military serving in Afghanistan. Kelly got screenings often and saw herself as an incredibly athletic and healthy person.
- Kristine, a 31-year-old, white, married musician who had regular screenings.
- Tamika, a black woman with no age given, working as a TV producer who avoided screenings for years due to a lack of insurance.
- Kristin, a white woman who died in her twenties from cervical cancer. Kristin’s parents were interviewed in her place, and did not disclose how often she was screened.
Re-read that list. Notice anything…odd? Three of the five women are white. This movie is not in any way racially or politically-charged, but I want to recognize that the rate at which people of color contract HPV is much higher than that of white people. While each story is inspiring in its own way, I found it odd that such a prevalent issue in discussions of HPV was essentially glossed over.
Audiences can expect to learn the most about Kelly, as director Frederic Lumiere documented her journey of battling cervical cancer live. The others had already beaten the disease and were in remission at the time of filming.
A mix of dynamic shots, intimate looks into the subjects’ lives, and masterful narration by Vanessa Williams make for a truly impactful experience. Small bits of humor break the tension that accompanies any mention of cancer, and cinematic parallels between the women’s experiences create a sense of unity throughout to tie their stories together into a cohesive narrative. Even the “acting,” through reenactment of specific events in these women’s pasts, is not bad or distracting. You know it’s not actual in-the-moment footage, but the movie’s tone makes you believe it to be so.
There’s a serious, yet engaging and informative tone throughout the movie. Facts are being thrown at you constantly, but it doesn’t feel like you’re being bogged down with information. The director creates a nice balance between necessary facts and interesting storytelling.
A warning for the faint-of-heart: tears are a guarantee. It made me cry, and I haven’t shed a tear over a movie since the release of “Bridge to Terabithia” in 2007. Also, for those who are grossed out by the human body, be wary; although minimal, there is an up-close shot of a woman’s vagina to show how doctors take samples from the cervix. It’s an effective illustration, albeit a bit unnecessary. However, it is short, so it shouldn’t discourage anyone from seeing the film. Just be ready to look away.
The best part of the movie is in the director’s fantastic job of not simply defining these women by their disease, rather exploring their personalities and presenting them to the audience as full-fledged, rounded-out humans. We learn about their work environments, their love lives, their hopes, dreams and struggles. You’ll exit feeling a personal connection to these women, and be able to apply many of their experiences to yourself or other loved ones. This is a way in which the movie greatly expresses “Someone You Love;” it asserts that this can happen to anyone, regardless of background, lifestyle choices, or health-consciousness. HPV is a risk for everyone, so there’s no excuse not to be educated.
“Someone You Love: the HPV Epidemic” is an enthralling documentary that teaches the dangers of HPV without simply fear mongering. The message is clear: it can happen to anyone. Don’t be another statistic. Get tested.
Learn more about “Someone You Love: the HPV Epidemic” at hpvepidemic.com.