I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a big fan of documentaries. Occasionally, a great one that interests me will break the mold of the talking heads monotony. SXSW documentary Introducing, Selma Blair, is a deeply moving, and emotionally unflinching, film examining the actress’s arduous journey to feel normal again after being diagnosed with MS back in 2018. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease where the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. Nerve damage ravages communication between the brain and the body. Symptoms are different for everyone, and there is no cure. For Blair, this means intense fatigue, trouble forming words, difficulty walking, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. The film establishes the toll MS takes on Blair’s body in heartbreaking detail, and follows her struggles to live a normal life with the disease.
This deep dive into Selma Blair’s life follows the elusive actress at her most vulnerable. Scenes where she shaves her head and painful chemo treatments are nakedly displayed in their power. Selma wears her emotions on her sleeve, and she’s never afraid to speak her truth. Right off the bat, she shrugs off cultural appropriation critics, and comments on how even without eyelashes, you can still let your freak flag fly. Her self-deprecating humor is delightful, and endears her even through the inherent sadness of her story. Many of her lighter moments here involve a tiny rubber hand that makes you laugh through the tears. I kept waiting for the next time it would make an appearance.
The film is uniquely structured, and it doesn’t just feature people talking about Selma and her battles. Introducing, Selma Blair shows us a harrowing snapshot of Blair’s life, not just her MS. When she decides to pursue stem cell research (a treatment tactic with a much higher success rate in eliminating progression of the disease so that patients can adjust to a new normal), every stage of this treatment is documented. The technical details stress that stem cells might be Blair’s only hope in combatting MS.
Beautiful moments take you through Selma Blair’s daily existence: sadness and depression, but also joy and hope. She has so much love for her son. An interaction with paparazzi during her first red carpet after being diagnosed is incredibly moving. Clips from some of Blair’s best work, like her iconic lesbian kiss in 1999’s Cruel Intentions, highlight her contributions to the cinematic landscape. In the film, they point out her old-school Hollywood glamour appearance, and it’s a perfectly accurate description of her stage presence. We see her at rock bottom, and we bear witness to personal triumphs.
This is a heart-wrenching, personal documentary—as a fan of Selma Blair’s acting work, I admire that she was willing to participate in a film that will spread more awareness about MS. Blair says that she just wants to be the best person she can be at this stage in her life. She just wants to be happy. As witness to her arduous climb up the mountain of hardship, I can safely say that Selma Blair deserves nothing but happiness, and the biggest hug. Introducing, Selma Blair was picked up by Discovery+ ahead of the SXSW Film Festival, and will air later this year.