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Review: A father fights for the life of his son in the documentary ‘Waldo on Weed’

Brian Dwyer holds his young son Waldo in the documentary "Waldo on Weed."
Waldo Dwyer and Brian Dwyer in the documentary “Waldo on Weed.”
(Double Windsor Films)

Though legalized in several U.S. states for medicinal and recreational consumption, marijuana remains highly polemic, even more so when implemented to treat children. A heartfelt account infused with vast informative virtues, Tommy Avallone’s documentary “Waldo on Weed” elaborates on the subject though one family’s hard-earned epiphany.

In 2014, young father Brian Dwyer underwent a transmutation from Philadelphia’s “Pizza Brain” guy to “Dadvocate” when an eye cancer diagnosis condemned he and his wife Danielle’s firstborn, Waldo, to the hazardous side effects of chemotherapy. Anecdotal findings inspire Brian to embark on a cross-country trip risking jail time to obtain a potentially life-saving substance: cannabis oil.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania didn’t decriminalize weed for medical use until 2016. But “I would go to jail for Waldo,” Dwyer assuredly says in the film.

Footage from Dwyer’s video journal documenting the boy’s doctor visits, his health evolution and the clan’s eventual move out west for easier access to the alternative treatment, provides a beneficial immediacy to their ordeal that’s then contextualized via interviews with those involved. Researchers, growers and detractors (namely a group known as CALM) also weigh in for valuable perspective.

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The stigma associated with the still-widely vilified plant disrupted relationships and personally affected Brian, a desperate parent convinced of the treatment’s effectiveness after his child displayed positive results. And while fellow cannabis converts and devotees are the film’s focus, Avallone — also the accomplished editor — succeeds at not proselytizing but rather humanizing the issue.

There’s no definitive verdict on pot’s attributes here, but “Waldo on Weed” offers reasonable hope with discerning caveats.

‘Waldo on Weed’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Available on VOD


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