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Review: Documentary ‘Best and Most Beautiful Things’ fails to explore deeply

Michelle Smith in the documentary "Best and Most Beautiful Things."
(Sarah Ginsburg)

The story of a legally blind young woman with Asperger’s syndrome struggling for an independent life would seem like ideal fodder for a vital documentary. The result, however, “Best and Most Beautiful Things,” rarely feels unique, insightful or engaging enough to fully justify our attention.

Is this because of director Garrett Zevgetis’ underwhelming mix of fly-on-the-wall-style footage with a somewhat holey, non-propulsive narrative structure? Or is it that his subject, quirky Bangor, Maine, resident Michelle Smith, simply isn’t that gripping of a character? It’s a bit of both.

Zevgetis follows the bright and curious Smith starting with her graduation from suburban Boston’s venerable Perkins School for the Blind. (The film’s title is inspired by a quote from early Perkins student Helen Keller.)

Smith, whose physical and emotional disabilities limit and inform her existence, is then seen navigating a modest home life with her divorced, perhaps hard-luck mother; attempting to find gainful employment; interacting with online friends; exploring her sexuality; mulling a pie-in-the-sky move to Los Angeles and more.

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Smith is certainly a worthy advocate for the mainstreaming and acceptance of “outcasts” or “others.” Unfortunately, Zevgetis doesn’t dig deeply enough here, especially regarding Smith’s interest in the “kink world,” the seemingly dysfunctional dynamics of her broken family, and her weeklong visit to L.A., which, in a major cheat, goes completely unseen.

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‘Best and Most Beautiful Things’

Not rated.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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