People diagnosed with ALS—commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease"—don't have much to look forward to. Because their muscles deteriorate quickly, so they can barely move or talk, they count on a life where they can't make a quick joke, hug their families, or do any of the things that made them happy and well-liked. From the day charming young designer-carpenter Stephen Heywood was diagnosed, he's had his brother Jamie by his side, raising money for a hastily thrown-together ALS research foundation. But for all their money and community support, the Heywoods couldn't halt the progress of a disease that moves faster than any attempts to treat it.
Documentarians Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan became interested in the Heywoods after Jordan's mother—the subject of their last film, Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern—contracted ALS. The couple witnessed first-hand the way her decline made ordinary days seem special, so their five-years-in-the-making documentary about the Heywoods, So Much So Fast, tries hard to imbue Stephen's story with a life-is-fleeting wonder. In fact, it tries too hard. Ascher and Jordan smother their footage with a melodramatic synthesizer soundtrack and cloying narration, which reaches its nadir when Ascher talks about how happy the Heywoods seem, adding, "Maybe everybody's struggling… with something."
But even with the forced perspective, So Much So Fast finds some unexpected wrinkles. In following Jamie's rogue research foundation—which helps change the way ALS studies are conducted—the movie captures the way scientists sometimes make breakthroughs simply by attempting the impossible. Meanwhile, Stephen urges his brother to spend more time with his family, the one activity that gives his own life meaning. While So Much So Fast follows Stephen's decline from moderately impaired to zero mobility, it also follows his son's growth, from birth to toddlerhood. When Stephen watches his baby lying on a bed, unable to turn over, he says, knowingly, "Right now you can't move your legs, but you don't know why." The scene gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a man living through his child.