Arthur Cohen, The Cohen Family
I can't lie. It was difficult to sit down and watch Nastasya Popov's beautiful short doc Pickle Man.
It's just been in this past week that local friend and similarly spirited Jenni Kleinman Berebitsky, subject of this past year's award-winning short doc Grateful - The Jenni Berebitsky Story and author of "ALS Saved My Life," passed away after having survived with the disease for over 10 years after being given a mere 18-24 months to live originally.
Berebitsky lived her life beautifully, amassing a village of compassionate warriors who served as companions for her life until the very end and providing support to her surviving husband and son among many others.
I thought about Jenni a lot as I watched this story unfold, an occasionally funny and always tremendously moving story of Arthur Cohen, a lifelong photographer who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 whose story here is both familiar yet adorably unique. Taking a pickling hobby and deciding to turn it into his legacy, the non-profit Pickals has since raised a quarter of a million dollars for ALS research.
Arthur's family is so compelling here that you simply can't help but fall in love with them. There's his daughter, Tess, whose college graduation he managed to live long enough to attend, and there's the wife whose presence of compassionate resignation and tenderness just absolutely breaks your heart and makes you smile. It's the bond that Arthur had with Tess, his youngest child, that is the most engaging relationship here as she lives into a role of at least modest caregiver and he struggles with the necessity of it all. Tess is refreshingly honest, an obscenity or two indicative of the fact that some days it was awful damn hard to smile.
Directed by Nastasya Popov, Pickle Man has a vibrancy and charm that immerses you in the story even though you've likely seen similar stories before. Karl Gottschalk's original music is vibrant and alive and captures the spirit of a family filled with immense love and remarkable presence.
There's really never any question exactly where Pickle Man is going. Yet, the film is filled with so much love and laughter that you can't help but find yourself enjoying the journey. It's that journey that makes the tragedy of it all that much more powerful.
A beautiful film from beginning to end, Pickle Man is one of the highlights of the 2019 ReelAbilities Pittsburgh Film Festival. For more information on the film, be sure to visit its official website linked to in the credits. For more information on ReelAbilities Pittsburgh, check out the official ReelAbilities Pittsburgh Film Festival website.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic