‘Move Me’ Review: A Visually Stunning Portrait of Disability and the Power of Movement

The best documentaries offer a reflection of the human experience, and challenges the viewers’ perspectives. Move Me does both in the best possible way. Shot against the backdrop of stunning scenery, it tells a story that’s so incredibly moving. Viewers are taken on a journey that makes us reflect on our own lives and experiences, and the journey that is the human experience. 

At 27, the film’s co-director and subject Kelsey Peterson dove into Lake Superior, in Wisconsin, and emerged paralyzed. Since then, the former dancer struggled to redefine who she is while adapting to life with a disability. The film follows Peterson as she grieves the person she was before the accident, as well as the simultaneous loss in her family. Peterson always comes back to movement in a poignant and beautiful way, and never stops striving to demand the best for her life. 

This entire documentary is a powerful response to ableism and the ableist structure of our society. There were brief moments that were among the most effective, like a medical professional feeling entitled to Peterson’s entire backstory and an innocuous shopping trip made infinitely more difficult in the absence of the most basic allowances for accessibility. It was a reality check for viewers that we live in such a deeply ableist society.

A Cripple’s Dance at the Southerhern Theater photographed by Tyler Croat Courtesy of Submerged Film LLC

The documentary is a meditation on the concept of identity. As someone who was able-bodied so much of her life, Peterson’s journey to re-negotiate her identity as a person with a disability is a poignant one. Move Me brilliantly captures the duality of the acceptance that disability is in itself not a bad thing, and Peterson advocating for herself and what she wants for her own body. This highlighted the film’s ultimate goal, to explore the intersection of acceptance and hope, where so much of life is lived. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and yet the film does it beautifully.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that a woman so in touch with the power of movement would understand the necessity of balance. Throughout the movie, viewers are treated to snapshots of performances by A Cripple’s Dance. It’s another strong rebuke to the ableist idea that only able-bodied people can take part in the beauty of dance. It’s both a therapeutic venture and a way of allowing for artistic expression. 

Kelsey Peterson Co-Director MOVE ME Photo by Noah Forbes Courtesy of Submerged Film LLC

The visual storytelling throughout this documentary is compelling. Home video footage of Kelsey and her family in younger days is so sweetly woven through the entire movie. This is so evidently a family that has always valued storytelling. Move Me is a testament to the values Kelsey received from her parents. 

Finally, Move Me is a poignant examination of the non-linear nature of grief. The contrast between Kelsey and her father’s dreams for each other and how they are essentially the same was a touching reminder of the power of family. Anyone who has walked the grief journey will recognize the complexity of the road. It’s a meaningful journey after which you are never the same. Viewers were granted an intimate look at Peterson as she faced this journey and processed the losses in her life. Her humanity was on full display in the most heart-touching way.

Move Me is a tribute to the human spirit, and the courage of one woman to allow viewers into her incredible personal journey. It’s a stark reminder of how we as a society still need to go to make a more accessible and accepting world. The work begins within, however. This movie is an inspiration to all viewers to examine our own lives, and take stock of our own identity and the connections that make us human. 

Move Me premieres at 2022 Full Frame Doc Film Fest April 7, 2022 and the ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York April 12, 2022.

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