The Waiting Room: A Short Review
Director: Peter Nicks
Running Time: 81 minutes
It’s hard to imagine warm and fuzzy feelings abound at the Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, both the site and subject of a new documentary film where the uninsured patients who people this documentary crowd an emergency room for hours and wait. Underneath the cantankerous and rough edges of some of these patients are their stories.
This documentary to its credit doesn’t proselytize. There are no voiceovers or appeals to your political persuasion. The characters do all of the heavy lifting. In the eighty plus minutes of raw footage inside the emergency room, we bear witness to the details of how they wound up in the emergency room and uninsured.
Though it’s hard not to think of how Obamacare might change the lives of Americans who are currently uninsured, the film isn’t about partisan politics. It takes on a universal theme—the frailty of human life and how our current system cannot sustain itself any longer.
Perhaps its greatest asset is that it doesn’t push an agenda. Instead it does what any good work of art does: it makes the characters so real and human that we wonder how they’re doing after they’ve left the emergency room. Are they still waiting for their bodies to heal, their lives to mend, their fortunes to turn around? And if so, how long was the wait?
Abdul Ali is a culture writer who lives in the nation’s capital. You can follow him on Twitter.