Science tells us that, most likely, lightning is the result of water and ice particles producing static electricity within low-temp cloud formations. (No, this will not be on the midterm.) Jennifer Baichwal’s intriguing doc isn’t interested in the how or why of this natural phenomenon so much as the aftermath. Folks like author Paul Auster and playwright James O’Reilly testify to being scarred by witnessing such high-voltage charges end the lives of friends and loved ones. A small Mexican community talks about having its faith tested when lightning tragically touches down on a religious icon. One ex–Marine commando was actually struck and pronounced clinically dead for 28 minutes (!) before returning to this mortal coil; a changed man, he now runs a Vegas-based business that helps terminal patients transition to the other side.
As with her last film—Manufactured Landscapes (2006)—Baichwal is going after Big Themes via abstractions and impressions, tackling notions of destiny, divinity and how these random occurrences can cause either destruction or creation. (The last part, involving musician Fred Frith having his brain waves charted for neuron bursts, is the film’s one strained aspect.) The approach matches up with the metaphysical aspects astonishingly well; the force of such ambient explorations hits you, surprisingly like a bolt out of the blue.