Jenna Has to Live (2022) [Slamdance 2023]

Director Katie Hopkins’ “Jenna Has to Live” is a striking look in to the catastrophic health system in America and how the price of medications for the diabetic has them dangling on the verge of death. I think that there’s a ton of room for movies of this ilk, as it presents a gut wrenching look in to the way high prices in America has effectively altered our lives, even those that have barely started theirs.

Jenna has Type 1 Diabetes and is about to be evicted from her apartment. To pay her rent she sells her insulin and rations what remains in increasingly reckless ways. When a well-meaning coworker, Julian, sees too much, Jenna throws up her guard. Can she hide her actions from being judged by Julian, or will her declining health give her away?

“Jenna Has to Live” is a very good drama that speaks to the timely themes about the astronomical pricing of medication and the tough spot it puts the sick in to. Allison Walsh is very good as the diabetic Jenna who spends her days rationing her medications, and even lulls herself in to denial, dodging obvious red flags about her diabetes. She’s risking going homeless and finds no other recourse but to sell her insulin to other people in back lots. In a very sad moment, Jenna sells her insulin to an eager woman who retreats to her car to feed her small son who is also suffering from diabetes.

There’s a lot uncertainty from beginning to end with “Jenna Has to Live” as Jenna is always on the precipice of losing her home, losing her job and losing her life. She’s playing a dangerous game, but is left little option to what she’s resorting to, especially with an unforgiving boss and landlord. Malik Guinn is very good as her co-worker who harbors a crush on her, and a genuine concern for her health. This becomes especially apparent when she appears at a party and gets a tad reckless with her blood level. “Jenna Has to Live” ends on an ellipsis where we’re never quite sure where she’s headed next. We just hope that she makes it out alive and healthy.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs Digitally and In-Person from January 20th to January 29th.