Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Electric Malady ★★★★



Directed: Marie Lidén

Released: 3rd March 2023 (UK Cinemas)

A father building a cage for his son to live in seems monstrously cruel on the face of it, but in the case of William’s father, his reasons feel grotesquely justified, for they birth from great desperation. Marie Lidén’s evocative documentary Electric Malady gives background to this situation, in which one young man struggles to deal with a lesser-known and harshly judged illness: electrosensitivity. Shot on a hand-cranked Bolex camera whilst also utilising real footage of William’s home videos, Electric Malady becomes a deeply moving documentary about illness (both physical and mental), social isolation, and modern-day technology. Despite its difficult and upsetting subject matter, Electric Malady offers brighter moments of hope – both due to Lidén’s skills as a director and William’s inspirational attitude as a person.

Years ago, William was a master’s student and aspiring musician. At one point in Electric Malady, he proclaims how much he loved socialising with family and friends, even finding energy just by being in large crowds. In the present day, William is a shell of this man; we don’t even see his face for a while, as it’s hidden behind layers of white, copper-lined fabrics. William lives in a remote cabin, cutting himself off from all forms of technology, due to increasingly serious pains and illness caused from large amounts of radiation in our world. It’s an illness recognised by few medical professionals, and often considered a mental affliction as opposed to a physical one; William’s suffering is largely done in isolation.

Electric Malady’s tone is one of considered reflection, subtle anger, and warmly glowing hope. Lidén’s amalgamation of these moods is terrific; she fully recognises the intense difficulty of William’s situation but infuses Electric Malady with shots of the surrounding world, never satisfied with confining the film to William’s cabin. It reflects this man’s own moods, which range from deep depression to glowing positivity. We see sparkling hints of the man William was before his illness took over his body. Michael Sherrington’s wonderful, homecooked photography compounds this reflective, lyrical composition of Electric Malady, with different feelings infusing and intertwining with great resonance.

Electric Malady is not just limited to William; his loving family are ever-present, especially his mother and father. They have watched their son slip away into physical suffering and mental isolation, unable to find substantial medical aid that could help him. They celebrate birthdays and Christmases together, with Lidén capturing this close family unit with a moving clarity, whilst also observing flickers of sadness as they sit across from William, who is clad in blankets. Throughout Electric Malady’s 84-minute runtime, Lidén highlights both the seclusion William experiences and the strong familial backing that provide him with some form of hope.

It would be obtuse and wrong to call Electric Malady too personal, but a bit more of an investigative eye would have been welcome. We are left with no answers come the end of the documentary about how electrosensitivity will be viewed by society in the future, nor what could be done to change the ignorant views around it. However, the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognise it as an illness is a step in the right direction. To be too investigative, however, may well have diminished William’s story, for Electric Malady is, first and foremost, a very personal, very poignant portrait of a man’s largely invisible personal suffering.

ELECTRIC MALADY is in UK cinemas from 3rd March

Just For You