In 2003, a fire started during a Great White concert at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island. 100 people died in the fire, including the band's lead guitarist Ty Longley, and the subject of this documentary, an 18 year old named Nicky O'Neill. "41" is not about that fire per se, but about the life of the young man that was taken in that fire, and how the lives of those around him were changed by knowing him.
The film is developed through interviews with those who knew Nicky, as well as home video footage covering nearly every period of Nicky's life, from infant to his death at age 18. It's such an ingenious construction as we actually feel a part of Nicky's life, and by the film's end we have such an emotional attachment to him, that we feel that sense of detachment that comes with losing a loved one. It's honestly unlike anything I've ever experienced in a documentary.
The footage of Nicky and the interviews with his family and friends are intertwined with some interesting occurences of the number 41 throughout Nicky's life and his conception that it has some underlying power throughout his life. The significance of the number "41" is debatable, as it can be argued that if you look for something hard enough, you will most certainly find it, and perhaps the same argument can be made for any number, however, the occurrences of the number are undeniably, well… eerie. From occurrences of the number 41 when Nicky was just a baby, to his death when he was 18 years and 23 days old (18+23=41), the number 41 becomes almost a character to itself within the film.
As the film progresses, the latter portion shifts focus, dealing with a play that Nicky had written before he passed. The play, entitled "They Walk Among Us" deals with the death of teenagers who return to Earth as angels. Whether you choose to deny that the occurences of the number 41 are anything more than coincidence, it is hard to deny the links between Nicky's play and events that are mirrored in that play that had yet to occur at the time of its writing.
It's impossible for me to properly put into words how stunningly effective "41" is from an emotional standpoint. The film's structure manages to invite the viewer into its story of Nicky O'Neill so ably that one feels as though they knew Nicky, making for a film which is as emotionally moving as any film I can remember. When it's revealed how many people attended Nicky's memorial service, I nearly broke down in tears. It is an incredibly moving moment, that suggests how beloved Nicky O'Neill actually was to his friends, family, and community.
After viewing both "Revealed" and "41", I can say that director Christian De Rezendes has an incredible gift for finding the ultimate humanity of a subject, no matter how bleak, and suggesting that there is a true beauty nestled within the darkest moments we experience. "Revealed" dealt, at times, with people who've come to grips with their own anger or the death of a loved one, yet somehow press on, using these negative experiences as a springboard toward a life of positivity. "41" deals with similar concepts, yet is a little more accessible, thematically. "41" is the perfect example of what a film of it's kind should attempt to accomplish, and if Christian De Rezendes makes a better film than this, my world may very well implode.