The documentary Take Your Pills is now streaming on Netflix.
By Greg Wheeler
With the media ever vigilant in its war on drugs, Take Your Pills is a balanced and fair documentary examining the effects of attention deficit prescription medication and its impact on American society today. Despite the balanced discussion here, the lack of an overall thematic message makes it difficult to know whether Take Your Pills is an advertisement or a cautionary tale toward amphetamines. From its origins in 1929 to the recent surge of Ritalin, Adderall and other prescription drugs in America, this documentary does a good job exploring the history and effects amphetamines have had on society and just what it means for the future of humanity. It’s a shame then that Take Your Pills lacks the cutting edge needed to make this as hard hitting as it could have been.
Although Take Your Pills is a little unfocused in its narrative structure, it’s certainly well shot and visually stimulating from the start and throughout. A mixture of historical footage from TV shows and cartoons, hand-drawn animated re-enactments of scientists and face to face interviews with various people involved with the drugs help to provide a good visual balance without drawing the focus away from the narration. The various different voices from interviews used to narrate the documentary keep things varied too and offer a good, balanced selection of voices to accompany the various images on-screen.
For the first 45 minutes or so, Take Your Pills doesn’t really show any negative side effects around the use of these drugs and gives off the feeling that this is an extended advertisement to go and take them. From increased concentration to better performance at work right through to increased grades at school, there’s an air of positivity and hope here that makes wanting to try these out an endearing prospect and hard to see any negatives. However, this does change around the 50 minute mark, eventually going on to show the devastating impact it can have on people and those around them through psychosis, seizures, insomnia and serious bouts of addiction. It’s from this moment onward that Take Your Pills is much more objective in its viewpoint toward amphetamine use in American society and its consequential effects on the populace. Late on, the creators of another enhancement drug, OptiMind, give further depth to this complicated subject and their inclusion is certainly a smart one, giving a good balance on both sides of the discussion.
When the credits rolls, it’s difficult to know what to take from this documentary. The first 45 minutes feel unfocused and come across more as a positive advertisement for amphetamines rather than an impartial view on these drugs. The cinematography and various camera work is consistently good though and in true Netflix fashion, the visual design excels where the narrative falters. There’s still a great deal of informative discussion put into this and late on Take Your Pills is far more engrossing but this documentary lacks the shock or hard-hitting impact fellow drug documentary Icarus had last year and as such, pales in comparison. Whilst the discussion is still ongoing, Take Your Pills at least provides some much needed insight into the problem but lacks the narrative focus and deep rooted insight needed to make this as engrossing and enthralling as it so easily could have been.
I give Take Your Pills a B.