Love is a deep bond that drives many of the actions of our lives. In the case of two new documentaries—Wild Life and Unconditional—we see how the power of love has moved people in amazing and sacrificial ways. Both films are available to audiences this weekend. Below, I share my thoughts on each.
Wild Life (In Theaters)
From Oscar-winning filmmakers Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, this film follows conservationist Kris Tompkins on an epic, decades-spanning love story through the wild landscapes she fought to protect. After falling in love, Kris and her husband Doug Tompkins left behind the world of the massively successful outdoor brands they’d helped pioneer—Patagonia, The North Face and Esprit—and turned their attention to an effort to create national parks throughout Chile and Argentina via their nonprofit Tompkins Conservation.
The film captures both their history and their love story, through Doug’s passing and how Kris continued the work to achieve their vision. The film is a love story, not just for the Tompkins’ but for the land that they sought to preserve. Kris’s work was a tribute to their love and shared passion for the regions.
The visuals in this documentary, put out by National Geographic Films, are stunning. And the heart behind the work of Kris and Doug is beautiful. At times the film feels a little dry and detached for me. I enjoyed learning more about the story and I was moved by the journey, but it didn’t resonate as strongly from an emotional standpoint for me. Still, it’s worth checking out to learn more about Kris’s passion and efforts.
The film opened in limited release on April 14 and is expanding to more theaters this week.
Unconditional (Theaters, PBS)
This documentary was a labor of love not only for those depicted but in terms of coming to audiences as well. Seven years in the making, the film is a first of its kind film from award-winning filmmaker Richard Lui on the topic affecting 100 million Americans–mental health. Lui, an anchor for MSNBC, is not only the director but a subject of the film, which follows three different families who are caregivers for loved ones.
In the case of Lui, it’s helping care for his parents, with his father suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. In the case of the other two, it’s military families where one spouse is suffering the impacts of being deployed. Luke Bushatz is a husband and father dealing with the trauma caused by traumatic brain injuries that occurred during deployment. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a wife and mother dealing with terminal cancer, the result of burn pit exposure during her time in the service.
In each case, we follow the families over the course of years, getting to know those who need care and the families who, out of sacrificial love, care for those in need. It’s a beautiful, moving and often emotional portrait of love in action, and the impact being a daily caregiver can have on those thrust into that position, often with little warning or training.
Lui does a beautiful job of telling the stories. It’s emotional and engaging, something well worth checking out.
Unconditional will begin airing and streaming on PBS on Monday, May 1. It will also have a limited theatrical run beginning Wednesday, May 3.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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