The Lion's Mouth Opens


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Lion's Mouth Opens
"This is a straight forward an intimate documentary that quickly forges a connection between us and Palka."

It goes without saying that no disease is welcome, but when it comes to cruelty, Huntington's is up there. A nerve cell condition caused by a defective gene, it is passed down the generations like a nasty medical lottery ticket - with each child having a 50/50 chance of inheriting the debilitating disorder, succintly described in this documentary as being "like a cross between Parkinson's and Alzheimer's".

There is currently no cure for the disease and in three per cent of cases there is no family history at all because the parent in question died young, before developing the condition. Lucy Walker's emotionally powerful documentary follows filmmaker Scottish Marianna Palka (Good Dick) as she prepares for and receives the results of her test for the disease, which killed her father.

Palka has a very upbeat personality and has bravely given Walker an access all areas pass to her life, so that the documentarian's camera sits down to dinner with her and her close friends, including Jason Ritter and Bryce Dallas Howard as they discuss the possibility of the disease and its implications. Later, it accompanies her to the doctor's office. Palka's mum also talks about the effects of Huntington's on her relationship with her husband, which went from "paradise to hell" as "each brick from the castle was taken out".

This is a straight forward an intimate documentary that quickly forges a connection between us and Palka, through video footage of her as a child and her open approach to talking about the possibility of being diagnosed. The title comes from a Bob Dylan poem, written for funeral of Woody Guthrie, who died from the disease and which Palka recites to her friends over dinner. Walker intercuts her words with footage of Huntington's sufferers, so we vividly feel the distinction between what is now and what could be if she is diagnosed.

A positively minded film that keeps us on Palka's personal journey while at the same time offering a good factual grounding in the disease, which will no doubt help raise awareness of it as a result.

Reviewed on: 30 May 2015
Share this with others on...
The Lion's Mouth Opens packshot
Documentary following Marianna Palka as she confronts her risk of Huntington's Disease.

Director: Lucy Walker

Writer: Marianna Palka

Starring: Marianna Palka, Jason Ritter, Seth Gabel, Moet Hashimoto, Bryce Dallas Howard

Year: 2014

Runtime: 28 minutes

Country: US


Search database: