In 2004, 34-year-old guitarist Jason Crigler was performing in New York when he crumpled suddenly and was whisked to the emergency room; doctors diagnosed him with a brain hemorrhage and declared he'd be permanently vegetative, if he survived at all. Eric Daniel Metzgar's Life. Support. Music. begins about two years later, retracing the stunning transformation Crigler made from lost cause back to professional musician, in no small part through his family's unwavering support.
Stories of miraculous recovery are compelling in the abstract, but directors charged with dramatizing the day-to-day tedium of convalescence have their work cut out for them. Where Life. Support. Music. really nails it is in reconstructing the backstory, conjuring the tumult and terror of the uncertain months before Crigler's prognosis began to turn around. The opening sequence is key, weaving together snippets of Crigler's loved ones recounting the night of his injury into one coherent blow-by-blow — his bandmates realizing he's stopped playing, his wife calling an ambulance, his parents receiving the news. File footage from his hospital time (albeit grainy and static) produces some of the film's most affecting moments, including a soul-rattling glimpse of him shortly after the accident, his eyes vacant, mouth agape, hands contorted into claws.
It's when the film overstates its case, though, that it falters. Home movies of a grade-school-aged Crigler constantly pop up unannounced, as though the childlike state to which his illness reduced him wasn't evident enough. And a touching climax, in which Crigler reunites with his former collaborators, has the air let out of it by a protracted, "everything worked out" epilogue. That Crigler's recovery is an inspiring wonder ought to be obvious to anyone with a heart; Life. Support. Music. is successful only when it allows that story to tell itself.