The Journey of the S is something of a crash course into Sickle Cell Disease (SCD); but it’s not so much about the nitty-gritty of the ailment that would make the whole thing become a documentary, but it centres on how SCD is viewed and the stigmatisation around it. The movie deserves credit in that regard; for showing us people with such disease. We see desolation, resignation, isolation, shame, and some form of depression from the victims, four people from different families. We also see ignorance from those without the disease, highlighting the blatant stigmatisation of the victims.
The movie also tries to tell us that SCD isn’t exactly fatal or some kind of Black Death, and it also manages to show us that despite the efforts of others, parents footing the medical bills, siblings and friends trying to be supportive, the victims are really those with the disease. But The Journey of the S doesn’t quite do enough of a job of telling us how these victims feel, nothing truly solid from the perspective of those with SCD. In a movie of this kind, the audience should at least get to meet the protagonists halfway, but that doesn’t quite happen.
The Journey of the S tries not to be a movie just about SCD and the issues surrounding it, it tries to give us other sub-plots and storylines, which is commendable, showing that people with this illness have actual lives and don’t just exist as disease-stricken individuals. But those other stories manage to simultaneously seem unnecessary and insufficient, and it rather feels like the movie stretches itself too thin by trying to do much, and gives us little.
You can also fault the movie on the basis of the connection of the characters. In a movie about four separate individuals with SCD, somehow everyone seems to know each other by some means, fiancé, friend, old school-mate, long-lost child, and what not and a movie meant to help de-stigmatise SCD turns itself into some kind of weary reunion and reconnection story. And you can say the movie fails in terms of dramatic and literary elements; aside from a rather trivial moment of foreshadowing, we see nothing else. The issue could be that the movie focused so much on the message, it didn’t go a good job of being an actual film.