Rupert Murray's Unknown White Male gives a sturdy treatment to an inherently fascinating story. One day, inexplicably, a man named Douglas Bruce loses all of his personal memories. Waking up without identification, Bruce faces significant hurdles just in discovering his name and home. But once he inhabits his life again, he still has huge emotional and practical challenges. Family and friends are now strangers, his home unfamiliar, his vocation a task to relearn. As one of Bruce's former friends, Murray is in a good position to record the tale, to experience the frustration of trying to reconnect with his former friend, and to ponder the natural questions of what constitutes personality. How much is inborn, and how much a result of a live lived? Murray focuses on the more distant past he shared with Bruce and the present, as Bruce makes a new life. In focusing on old bonds, Murray glosses over how Bruce was living when he lost his memory, apparently a lonely life of serial dating with little in the way of close friends. Still, this real-life mystery is never less than compelling.
(Note: The producers have been dogged with questions about whether or not the film is a hoax. The thought never occurred to me when I watched the film, and certainly no hard evidence has been presented to prove this assertion. Rather, a lack of public evidence of Bruce's case has been cited. Certainly if this documentary is disproven, it loses much, but I must take it at face value.)