Interesting but it doesn't get to the bigger picture in the way I would have liked
I've been catching up on my Louis Theroux recently and have seen some very strong films from him in the last few weeks, so perhaps that is part of the reason that I felt disappointed in this one. Theroux's approach is usually to try and draw his subjects out and in some cases he has made great films doing this; the last one I watched being Miami Megajail which did a great job of presenting questions and information to the viewer on the subject at hand. With Medicated Kids though, I didn't think he managed to pull that off even though the researchers had done well to get him access to some good subjects here. This is only half the battle but actually in this regard the film is pretty good.
We see the kids struggling but more worryingly we see them (and everyone) using the vocabulary of diagnoses in the way that members of a cult can often all talk the same sort of way because they have been taught a common language. This is uncomfortable because of that comparison but it is also more uncomfortable to hear the kids talking about themselves in terms of being a patient rather than a person. We see the parents going through it as well with their kids and it is clear that they have "difficult" kids – whether they are 'broken' or in need of treatment I don't know but for sure they have their hands more than full every single day. The film doesn't really provide answers of course but it does pose a lot of questions and give the viewer a lot of odd feelings about the need to "do something" conflicting with the rather uncomfortable idea of a (for example) 6 year old talking in medical terms about themselves while taking anti-depressants.
The problem though is that it doesn't really manage to deliver a complete view particularly well. It certainly manages to indicate something "wrong" somewhere and it gives tastes of the challenges to all those involved but yet it falls short of being a total document with questions cleverly raised across the film. It contrasted too much in my mind with Megajail, because to me that did use interviews and characters to build a really engaging summary of the subject so that although tightly focused on individuals, the bigger picture was clear. For me this film never managed to get to that bigger picture and it is weaker as a result; not weak, but weaker than I would have liked for sure. Still interesting though and it did engage but the subject represents a challenge in terms of structure and delivery and it is a challenge that it never really rises to.