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TIFF 2016 Review: “150 Milligrams” (2016) ★★★★★


It’s a glaring reality that we live in a time where pharmaceutical companies release medicines not for the sake of saving our lives, but rather to make money from them. You may say this is not true and that certain medications do help us maintain and even improve our overall health condition. Here, I must say, I agree with you, but if you and me are the lucky ones… there are many, many, more who are not…

150 Milligrams, from critically-acclaimed filmmaker Emmanuelle Bercot, is a powerful drama based on the true story of Irène Frachon, a pulmonologist at the teaching hospital in Brest who makes a shocking discovery. The highly popular medicine, Mediator, used by many to lose weight, instead caused a heart valve disease that took 500 lives. The story begins in 2007 when Irène finds cases of heart damage in patients, some of whom she knew personally.

During her investigation, with the help of fellow pulmonologist Professor Le Bihan, Frachon proves those who were treated with benfluorex – the active ingredient in Mediator – were exposed to valve disease. As her fight begins with the Servier laboratory, the doctor ignores all the pressures she receives from the government and corporate levels in order to save the lives of those that can still be salvaged. But how can one go against the system that is strong enough to defeat anyone who stands up to them, or the drugs that, unfortunately, were so highly popular?

150 Milligrams is a highly intelligent and important film to watch. It shows that any system, no matter how strong it is can be defeated by one, or many people. Also, for better or worse, it’s made only for a thinking audience that will appreciate the dynamic flow of the film, as well as its intellectual approach.

Everything is outstanding about Bercot’s film. The character development, the pace, the dramatic soundtrack that shapes the required atmosphere to experience the real battle of Frachon with Servier’s representatives. And the performance delivered by Sidse Babett Knudsen is truly rapturous. She not only nails every single scene, but also lives in them, as if she were experiencing it in real time.

The moral of the story, or the importance of it to be told, is that society is always in need of real-life heroes like Irène Frachon. Her determination and willingness to fight till the end might have saved thousands of lives, simply by withdrawing a drug from the market, and fighting against the very corporations that are meant to be saving us.


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