The irony was once Oxycontin was cracked down upon, opiate addiction was so widespread that everyone went into the heroin market that the Sacklers were trying to corner with prescription narcotics. This is shown in startling clarity as Boyle interviews a small-town resident who says pills are hard to get, but heroin is right down the block and is sometimes handed out for free.
Some of the most potent sections of Anonymous Sister are when Boyle weaves footage of the early warnings by experts about Oxycontin with footage of her sister still as a child and her family still unravaged. It is a constant reminder that this could have been stopped before America got strung out from sea to shivering sea.
“…Boyle weaves footage of the early warnings by experts about Oxycontin…”
The interviews with her family now benefit greatly from the familiar connection that exists with the subjects. There is an intriguing element of separation that keeps cropping up, both the distance that comes from being junked out and the distance the camera places between you and what is hurting you. Boyle’s turmoil is kept offstage until her father brings it out in the spotlight. He talks frankly about how Boyle had suffered emotionally being caught in the blast radius of narcotic devastation. It is a killer sequence and another reason why Anonymous Sister gets you closer to the core of how opium can eat a family alive. Hear the voices of those who went through the Purdue painkiller plague because it’s put American society into a daily slasher movie of overdose deaths everywhere.
Whatever Boyle imagined when she was wee about what kind of films she wanted to make, I can guarantee she never imagined this one. Thank goodness she is as good a filmmaker as she is because you cannot underestimate the importance of this documentary.
Anonymous Sister screened at the 2023 Doc NYC Festival.
"…a very important chapter in the great American drugmare"