My Beautiful Broken Brain tells the story of Lotje Sodderland, a stroke patient trying to relearn her ability to read, write and speak coherently. Things we all take for granted in everyday life. The film opens with a member of Lotje’s family recapping the events of her stroke, then showing us Lotje’s first attempt at recoding herself with her phone.
It’s these recordings that give the film a very personal and profound feeling, as viewers, experience every step of Lotje’s journey, her confusion, her frustration. As part of her recovery programme, Lotje spends three months as an inpatient in Homerton’s neurological rehabilitation unit, where she works to try and improve upon her speech, reading and writing abilities. Lotje’s personality is what really shines through in this point, her sense of humor and strong perseverance becomes charming.
At various points the film changes it’s visual style to convey what Lotje is seeing in her head—as the stroke caused an impairment on her right eye causing her to see “trippy” and psychedelic images. This lets the film stand out from other typical documentaries, the majority of footage is taken from Lotje’s phone, so while the quality visually isn’t very appealing, it allows you, as an audience member go through the recovery process with her—rather than watching her.
The pacing of the film is good, but by about half way through it does slow down a bit, making me feel a bit impatient as I waited to get to the next big revelation. The editing does a good job of mixing in all of Lotje’s phone recordings with interview, using them as sound bites or adding effects to convey Lotje’s vision.
Overall, My Beautiful Broken Brain is a fascinating look at the effects of a stroke, the philosophy of who we are, and what makes a person…a person.