In June 1971, President Nixon officially declared “War on Drugs”, telling Congress that drug addiction had become a “National Emergency” and drug abuse was the “public enemy number one.” Following the announcement, drug use officially became a criminal, strict issue, and Nixon began proposing strict measures to curb the issue. 50 years have gone by, and the “War on Drugs” campaign has failed miserably. When I began watching “Group”, I thought this would be another film on the “War on Drugs”. Movies like Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting have shown the darker side of drug abuse, but I found Group is completely different from those ones.

The film shows a group session of addicts in a detailed manner. Characters coming from different walks of life are featured in the film. People from different ethnic groups, countries, and sexual orientations. All shared their stories. Initially, I thought the stories were innocuous, but after a second viewing, I realized that the maker had created different worlds through those stories. It is more than just telling stories in front of a camera. For instance, there are undercurrents of falsehoods among their stories, which make them vulnerable, but the story itself becomes interesting.

Though the main intention of group therapy is to better the lives of the addicts, in the film, it takes a different turn. Its gory ending makes it completely different to watch. I was expecting a happy ending where the group session would ensure a positive outcome. However, I was completely taken aback by the ending of the film. Through the individual stories, you get to know about the minds of the people who are affected by drug abuse. Those stories are like a portal to a different world that we always liked to explore. There are 12 recovering drug addicts who tell their stories in front of others. Those lead to other stories. For example, when a girl from Eastern Europe tells her story, she also talks about her struggle to grasp the English language, which is different from the story of a hedge fund manager or the story of a lawyer. A unique world opens in front of you. You discover a world that was unknown to you. But it is done simply- participants telling their experiences on camera. However, the use of flashbacks makes the story stronger and bolder.

The writer-director, William R. A. Rush has done a great job. He turned a simple, a few would say boring, story into a gory affair. He raises the question of the effect of drug use with the minimal showing of drugs. He didn’t take the route of showing direct drug use but rather revealed the stories of the addicts. The DoP, Michael Joseph Murray, has also done a great job. It may seem pretty simple to capture the facial expressions of the actors, but there is more to it. Michael Competielle, who has done the background music, has done a great job in creating a soundscape that compliments the story of the film most nonchalantly. The music melds with the story without disturbing the mood of the plot. Editing plays an important role in this film because many characters are present in it. Miranda Jean Larson, editor, edited the film in such a way that it keeps you hooked to the story. The writer-director, William Rush, is also the producer of the film. However, it is because of the actors and their stupendous acting skill that makes the film worth watching. Especially the character Dan, played by the inimitable Don Scribner. The way he transformed himself from the first scene to the last deserves appreciation.

After first watching, it may seem a dull film to you, but a second-viewing will change your perception. It is a dialogue-driven film, but it still has a story. The basic idea of the film is similar to Sidney Lumet’s classic, 12 Angry Men. I’m not comparing these two films, but the style of storytelling is similar in both the movies. As a reviewer of the film, I would like to give it 4.5 stars out of 5. The reason I’m giving it a high rating is because of its unique storytelling approach. I urge everyone to watch the film.