SXSW 2021: Introducing, Selma Blair follows the titular actress as she is diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and goes through a dangerous stem cell treatment to battle the disease head on. The documentary is 90 minutes of blow after blow, leading to a sign of hope, and then right back to the final blow known as 2020. It’s a heartbreaking film that dives deep into the illness and the effects it has on a person such as the talented Blair. For those who are unaware, MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the spinal cord and brain; symptoms are different for everyone, and there is no known cure.
With 2018 cellphone diaries, we get to hear Blair’s symptoms leading up to her diagnosis in August of 2018. We get to see the disease from all different aspects of Blair’s life, such as when she’s with her son, when she’s alone, and when she’s out in public. At the very start of the film, it almost seems like she’s fine, as we see her putting on her makeup and speaking with ease. However, once she gets set up in her outdoor area with her comfort dog by her side, you can tell there’s a hardship with her speech as she’s struggling to bring the words out. As soon as the dog jumps down from her side, her level of speech rapidly decreases in a heartbreaking realization of how bad this disease can get, very very quickly.
While suffering from the disease, she describes her worries about what will happen if she passes away. What her concerns will be with her son, her ill-mother, and her horses. She speaks about how her mother was always critical of every move she made, and even when she was one of the main supporting characters in Cruel Intentions, her mother remained displeased. She goes into her alcohol addiction and how after her son Arthur was born she was never the same, including going on a trip with Arthur and getting so drunk she blacked out on a plane (which made national headlines in 2016) which convinced her to stop drinking all together. We also get to see a rare moment where right after she was diagnosed, she steps out onto the red carpet and struggles to walk, breaking down in tears. As a remarkable response, a majority of the press lower their cameras and let Blair compose herself before continuing.
Blair decided to go through an experimental treatment to battle her MS in order to be around for her son to watch him grow up and to undo what she “inherited” from her mother in terms of her rage. Enduring 7 steps of treatment, we witness it all first hand, along with her results. Her self doubts about the process would make anyone doubt the procedure. She was thinking she’d be cured by the treatment, but a day at a time progression is all it grants as there is no true “cure.” To go from such a heartbreaking beginning of what MS can do to then seeing the possibilities that these kinds of treatments can have is mind boggling and full of hope for the future of research and for Selma Blair herself.