After falling down and needing help to get up during a family vacation, Jason DaSilva’s new reality finally hits home a few months later after his diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). All too soon, his ability to walk deteriorates as he adapts to a cane and then a scooter over a period of five years.
Jason worries about the future but spends a lot of time living in the past—both which bring him down. Pre-PPMS, he was making documentaries around the world, and for his latest project, shooting in India, he had difficulty focusing on shots because of his failing sight and he had to abandon the project. His mom, who he nicknames Ms. Positivity, works hard to keep his spirits up. She calls him a “North American coddled kid,“and reminds him of those who are less fortunate. Her advice will ring true as she tells him that we are all here for such a short time and must make the best of what we have. She also helps him focus on making this documentary.
There is a lot to consider in this video journal, but not always a lot of action. As Jason can do less, we get more talking heads. Black-and-white animated seques help lighten the seriousness of PPMS and explain what might be too complex for words, such as white blood cells attacking his nerve endings. While being afflicted with PMMS at any age is not uncomplicated, is it more tragic at the age of 25? Probably.
Memorable scenes of Jason sitting in his wheelchair at a subway platform–he finds accessible stations a big challenge–and his sitting in the middle of a busy avenue with cars passing in fast motion also depict his circumstances. Jason is no longer able to keep up with the world, but he has to find a way to keep moving forward.
From yoga to surgery, he tries a variety of ways to better himself. He also tries to make life easier for others who are physically challenged by starting a website called AXS Map (www.axsmap.com), a tool for sharing reviews on the wheelchair accessibility to businesses. After checking out the website, it looks like it is still in its infancy, but a helpful project nonetheless.
When I Walk is a candid look with the potential to evoke pity, but it never does. Jason worries more than he complains, and viewers will be just as happy to meet Alice Cook as Jason is because she adds another dynamic. Alice not only helps Jason she also helps us understand what it’s like to love and marry someone who has a debilitating disorder. She freely admits that she sometimes needs a break from caring for Jason as she must help him with most of his needs. Her honesty makes us consider, “Could I do that?”
Yet the film leaves viewers feeling hopeful. We feel an acceptance in Jason even though most of his daily activities are taken over by someone else. He overcomes obstacles and figures out how to adjust—a valuable lesson in itself.