2020, NR, 97 min. Directed by Kahane Cooperman, John Hoffman.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Nov. 6, 2020
As a certified curmudgeon, when confronted with a film that presents itself as "stories of kindness, decency, and the power of community," the wince is immediate. But it's impossible to be dismissive of a fundamentally well-intentioned documentary about fundamentally well-intentioned people, which is exactly what The Antidote is: a documentary with the warming and honest intention of reminding us all on the need for kindness.
That The Antidote needs to exist is a nightmarish scenario, based on the verifiable fact that civic engagement has become so caustic that helping others has become a radical act. As the title implies, directors Kahane Cooperman and John Hoffman present a thesis that maybe, just maybe, reaching out to others with an open hand, or one carrying what they need, may save us all.
They illustrate by anecdote, like the medical team helping people living on the street with the afflictions and ailments that plague those constantly exposed to the elements. The kids in foster care who spend their time with retirees and end up with 42 grandmas. The evangelical ethicist teaching fundamentalists that they can love God and their LGBTQIA kids. It's all so simple. As the owner of a community bike store in one of Indianapolis' most infamous ZIP codes puts it, people telling their stories is a philanthropic act.
It's told exactly how you think it would be told. Lots of pretty shots of different locations, with stirring strings and maudlin arpeggio piano. Its episodic structure would probably work just as well as a web series than as a film (although it might make less of a splash that way). As for the Americentrism and inherently Christian viewpoint for a film about the universal call for kindness, that may trigger some eyerolling. It's undoubtedly a Kumbaya chorus, but is that a bad thing? Of course not, even if former The Daily Show producer Cooperman brings the same blithe "can't we all just get along?" Panglossian philosophy that often made the show seem a little glib. But maybe we do need to be but beaten over the head with the idea that being considerate should not be regarded as a political act. "We need more of that," says one amiable gentleman who performs his one selfless act in his own moment of paying everything forward. When kindness seems in such short supply, a little reminder that it's easy and takes so little effort.
The Antidote is available as a Virtual Cinema release.