Review of Risky Drinking (2016)

Moving picture, 82 minutes

Seen in 2021.

Four heavy drinkers in the US middle class, along with some statistics and a little medical advice.

The point of interest here, from a film-studies perspective, is the rhetorical topos. The occasional animated interludes are beautifully produced, but not emotionally charged. Statistics and authorial commentary on the characters are delivered mainly through silent captions, which is conspicuously mild rhetoric. The basic subject matter is of the traditional “scared straight” variety, with all four examples showing ethanol consumption obviously doing more harm than good, but the author’s voice on the matter is greatly subdued.

I speculate that this choice was made partly to undermine audience reactance, which would be an irrational sense that the filmmakers are “too judgemental” regardless of the evidence they present. The choice also exists in a larger context, in relation to the wave of prohibitions that swept much of the world 100 years earlier and was constitutional law in the USA in 1920–1933. A new ban is off the table in this documentary. The experts explain how addiction undermines free thought (lowering impulse control) and the great difficulty of recovery, but all of them and the documentary as a whole follow the general taboo against regulation.

moving picture non-fiction