An interesting story framed in an uninteresting documentary, "Unknown White Male" is about a young Englishman who finds himself lost and delirious in New York one day after experiencing a total memory loss. Having never regained his memory, Doug Bruce is filmed by friend and [clearly] first-time director Rupert Murray as he tries to piece his life back together.
While the truth of this story is in dispute among some, we'll assume that the story is true, and if it is true it is an amazing story. Having suffered no physical or specific mental trauma, Bruce just loses his memory one day and never gets it back. This is a rare feat in and of itself, and is worth making a movie about.
Unfortunately, this has to be one of the lamest documentaries I have seen in a long time. Director Murray clearly has no clue what he's doing, as his documentary appears jumbled, unfocused and without character. The movie is all about one man - Doug Bruce - but by the end of the film I still didn't feel like I knew him, either his new self or his old persona that he so suddenly forgot. Murray tries to build Bruce's character through interviews with family and friends and a bit of home video footage, but none of it really flows in a sensible way that makes us really care for the man.
The worst of it all is an interview with a psychiatrist (or neurologist or someone who is experienced with amnesia), who is either too dull to show at one time or who Murray found so interesting that he'd figure he'd use the man's footage throughout the entirety of the documentary. At random points in time, we get a description of amnesia cases, how rare they are, what causes them and what the likelihood is of the person fully recovering. Unfortunately, these descriptions rarely help the film and are usually so out of the blue that they stand out like a sore thumb.
Again, the story is interesting, but Murray just doesn't have the filmmaking abilities to make this movie work. "Unknown White Male" is a disappointing documentary that falls far short of its potential.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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