In the first act of Sicko, Michael Moore introduces the audience to several unfortunate souls who have had to suffer both poor health and poor access to care. But that is not what the film is about. As it proceeds we meet individuals who have been mistreated by giant corporations that promised to protect their well being, but betrayed them when need arose. But that is not what the film is about. Moore takes us on a world tour of nations that offer services not provided in the U.S. They see these services as birthrights for fellow citizens who are human and in distress. But that is not what the film is about.
Most people’s expectations for Sicko probably encompass scenes that are part lecture to school the audience on the dry statistics of health care policy, and part screwball satire to illustrate points that Moore has preselected. But that is not what the film is about either.
While there is an abundance of information imparted in the course of the film, and there is much of the trademark humor for which Moore is famous, the most surprising ingredient is a generous portion of heart. This film is, at its core, a moving drama about genuine people whose hopes and fears are alarmingly similar to yours and mine if we were struggling with critical health issues – and some of us are – and all of us will.
But if there were one theme that could be rendered a conclusion, it would be that “we can do better.” Many critics of the film allege that Moore is merely bashing our current system and recruiting foreigners to help him do it. But I don’t see it that way. I see Moore asking us all a question: Why has a nation as great, as rich, as compassionate as this one is, fallen short with regard to caring for every ailing neighbor. I think Moore is baffled as to why other nations are able to accomplish something so fundamentally necessary for survival while our nation cowers before greedy conglomerates as if they were the ones deserving of sympathy.
After seeing this film, I left the theater feeling that I had experienced something that was enlightening, depressing, and inspiring, all at the same time. And I hope I also came away with a sense that there is work to be done to improve our country and ourselves. In that regard I think it is vitally important to heed the words of Tony Benn, a former member of the British Parliament who was interviewed by Moore:
We must not succumb to our fears and frustrations. There is too much at stake to allow ourselves to be led off the path.