A vegetarian infomercial in the guise of a feature documentary, Lee Fulkerson’s film is a frontal assault on the consumption of meat and dairy products that marshals a good deal of evidence—though much of it anecdotal—in support of its view. “Forks Over Knives” is, however, so utterly one-sided that even those who agree with its ideas may find it too much special pleading.
The centerpiece of the picture focuses on the careers of T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, researchers who have over the years identified what they argue to be the health dangers of an “animal-based” diet as compared to a “plant-based” one—and who have assisted patients to radically improve their wellbeing by changing their dietary lifestyles. But their story is buttressed by testimony from others about how meat and dairy products contribute to the prevalence of such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity that are epidemic in American society and are passing to populations in other areas of the world as they begin altering their diets as well. The ecological damage brought about by the present system is also touched upon.
“Forks Over Knives” doesn’t spend as much time pointing the finger of blame at corporate power brokers and their governmental lackeys in maintaining the current modes of food production and distribution as Robert Kenner’s “Food Inc.” did, and so is far less effective in that respect. Nor is it at all careful about representing differing points of view fairly—those who disagree with the physicians showcased here about the beneficial contribution of meat to protein in diet, for example, get short shrift. And the film’s concentration on one case in particular—of a man who jettisons his medications in favor of a reformed diet and lifestyle that alters his condition for the better—could have a less than beneficial impact on especially susceptible viewers. (The process occurs under the watchful eye of a committed doctor and has admittedly amazing results, but some may unwisely decide to emulate it entirely on their own.)
Still, the film is a provocative piece of cinematic activism on an important subject, and if Fulkerson isn’t the most scintillating narrator, he puts his materials together in an effective fashion. And you have to admire him for becoming a guinea pig himself and testifying to the result.
So even if “Forks Over Knives” doesn’t persuade you to change your eating habits completely, it does give you something to ponder while you’re slicing that filet mignon or downing that glass of milk.