That Sugar Film is a horror story. It’s the horror story that’s happening, right now, in your house, in your body, in your children’s bodies. A parasite is crawling its way not just through your physcial dimensions, but your psychological existence, too; it’s everywhere, and it’s always been there. It’s called sugar. Some horror story, huh? Thankfully for us viewers, That Sugar Film doesn’t use cheap scare tactics to warn us of the perils of sugar in our diet; instead, it makes use of warmth, laughs and heart to win us over to its side.
Damon Gameau is this film’s one-man band: introducing himself as an intrepid explorer of healthy diets, the filmmaker immediately leads us into his personal life and his relationship with sugar. Or rather, his lack of a relationship with the white stuff; Gameau has been off it for a decade, and decides – in the style of Supersize Me – to reintroduce it into his system for 60 days, at the average amount per day of your regular Westerner. He hires dieticians, nutritionists, haematologists and even psychologists to track his progress as he gradually loses himself to the same amount of sugar we all consume normally. The results are not pretty, and entirely scary; quickly becoming lethargic, erratic in mood, and noticeably overweight in a matter of weeks, Gameau has, with a sobering smack of clarity, shown us all what sugar does to us – and how we can entirely do without it. If this particular reviewer already sounds converted, then it’s because of this delicately balanced film, which narrowly avoids preachiness and opts for real-life examples to draw us in. Of course, his physical journey isn’t all there is: Gameau also embarks on a worldwide tour to uncover the effects of sugar on different peoples. What we witness is disconcerting at best, and almost unbelievable at worst: the teeth belonging to certain residents of the USA, who guzzle Mountain Dew all day long, is enough to put you off the stuff for good.
If it all sounds a bit serious, the documentary actually operates, on the outside at least, like an educational tag you’d find on the back-end of a Saturday morning cartoon. Its colourful visuals pop and dazzle, its guest stars sparkle – the involvement of Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman will certainly have your attention – and Gameau is an extremely amiable presence, a regular everybloke who gets our attention. But despite the facade, the doc’s always backed up by a consistent adherence to the science; dozens of facts constantly pepper the movie, slowly widening our eyes until we just can’t take it anymore, and have to admit it: sugar is bad for us.
That Sugar FIlm is an exuberant, wonderfully told parable of what we’re doing to our bodies each and every day. If it goes out on a limb a little too often, it’ll always bring it back home with more shocking revelations about either the wide-reaching effects of the economy when it comes to food distribution, or the cold-light-of-day truths about your local supermarket. It’ll even make you feel bad about drinking orange juice, of all things; at points, That Sugar Film feels like an uncomfortable purge of your system, but you’ll feel all the better for it on the other side.