October 05, 2021
Nine stories from the Covid frontlines deliver emotional punch, but the documentary’s desire for a global message blunts its impact
Convergence: Courage in a Crisis review – pandemic film dilutes the outrage
“I can’t breathe” went mainstream as a rallying cry during the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020, just as respiratory difficulties of a different kind were beginning to exact an increasingly frightening toll across the world. This panoramic and often moving Netflix documentary about Covid-19 courageously tries to draw a straight line between the pandemic and the underlying social inequalities it flushed out everywhere. But as it spans nine different stories in eight countries, it ends up too diffuse to make telling political points and ends up uncomfortably close to the kind of globetrotting montages Roland Emmerich disaster flicks wheel out to show shared planetary ordeals.
Convergence certainly has a knack for emotive sweep, and there’s no doubting the courage and self-sacrifice on display in many quarters here, from a Wuhan volunteer ferrying medical workers around the ground-zero city in early 2020, to the reformed São Paulo criminal pulling comatose slum-dwellers out of the favelas. Her segment, and that of the Miami doctor trying to ensure Florida’s homeless are protected, are where the outrage burns fiercest. They bring home, in the awful, stricken faces of the asphyxiated, how the virus has further cut into the structural vulnerabilities that appear with depressing consistency in different societies.
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