There are enough documentaries that viewers can see about ALS, but Eat Your Catfish is one of those few that allows us to see the disease from the perspective of someone who has it. The doc does this through sight and sound. The documentary’s main participant is Kathryn Arjomand, the person with ALS, and her son, co-director Noah, puts a camera on top of her mobility device. The sightline is probably slightly above hers but the method is efficient. The documentary also has her narration, explaining two events. One is Noah’s departure to Turkey, another is her daughter Minou’s wedding.
Kathryn understands that most people assume that people with ALS want to die when their motor skills stop functioning, but she explains that she wants to see what happens next to her children. Your Catfish‘s main plot arc is Minou’s wedding, which they hold in Kathryn and her husband Said’s house at the Catskills. Weddings can be dramatic, but Kathryn, through narration, thinks that the documentary doesn’t have enough material. She wants the same kind of drama as the one she saw on August Osage County. The documentary gets its title from one of Tracy Letts’ more memorable lines.
Being alive is hard enough as it is, but ALS understandable makes that more complex. Your Catfish juggles the wedding and Kathryn’s daily requests, which we take in earnest although it’s smart enough to incorporate that narration to call out viewers’ possible assumptions. She voices her requests through her special computer, but sometimes Said doesn’t understand what she wants, which angers Noah. The documentary’s depiction of this threefold tension fleshes out what viewers probably know about diseases bringing out the worst. But what makes this documentary interesting is how it gives Kathryn complexity and equal, active agency around her.