On Monday night I attended a media preview of Forks Over Knives, which begins its general run at The Magnolia in Dallas this Friday. I even brought my omnivore husband with me. This documentary film advocating a plant-based diet for its health benefits is powerful, thought-provoking, and, thankfully, not laced with the fightin’ words and images of the vegan cause that can come across as cheap shots—it stays positive and hopeful, and in making its point, it doesn’t rely on gross-out tactics as much as it could. Sure, you’ll see meat hanging in a slaughterhouse, and you’ll see some open-heart surgery scenes, but in general, it keeps the message reasonably upbeat, using statistics as well as following some endearing personal stories to show that a plant-based diet can not only prevent a host of chronic ills, but it can actually reverse damage already done. As a vegetarian who enjoys dairy and eggs, and one living in a family of omnivores, it gave me a lot to think about. The film sticks to stark contrasts: The typical American diet filled with huge slabs of grilled meat, packaged convenience foods, and soda is held up to compare against a completely vegan plant-based diet. Those of us who live somewhere in the middle definitely leave wondering where we fall, health-wise. I felt inspired to volumize the fruits, veggies, and whole grains in my family’s diet and downplay the cheese and eggs, though not moved to cut them out completely. There are several scenes of big vegan meals being served, and while the food looks very appealing, it’s hardly indicative of what a vegan might grab for lunch on a Thursday.
The film is an old-school documentary, to be sure—appealing to reason and thought more than offering entertainment. That said, it has its funny, smart moments, and the handful of people whose health stories are profiled are authentic and interesting; you will want to see them get well, and rejoice with them when they do. The obvious reserve used in producing the film serves it well; it doesn’t put the viewer on the defensive, instead offering every reason in the world to want to change. It’s a film I feel comfortable recommending to omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike—catch it if you can.