Review: Netflix’s Heal (Documentary)

So, I’ve had three clients come to me in the last month or so because they’ve seen a documentary on Netflix called ‘Heal’ by Kelly Noonan Gores (writer, director and star of).

I knew that I had to check it out, of course, to see what it had to say about reiki and what drew the clients to come and see me.

And right away, I felt threatened. Since this documentary says that it is exploring healing, and the ‘mind-body connection’, it means that viewers might classify all healing therapies in the same way, that we all are likely to subscribe to the same arguments presented in the shiny new documentary on the entertainment phenomenon, Netflix, which is possibly reaching a helluva lot of people. I mean, what if the documentary is horrible?

It is.

This is a horrible documentary.

The thing is: it does say things that I agree with, and in fact, use to explain reiki to clients:

  • There are other types of healing besides Western medicine.
  • The body has a natural intelligence that allows it to heal.
  • We are made of energy (in fact, everything is made of energy).
  • Our emotions and our emotional health can affect our health.
  • Meditation is healing and reiki works along the same wavelengths as meditation.

The problem is that ‘Heal’ jumps from these premises to make direct or indirect claims that I don’t agree with. It follows a dizzying array of talking heads, who, placed side by side, seem to sometimes be making the same argument, but in fact, they are all from very different backgrounds and belief systems. So what’s presented is a complete hodgepodge where assertations are made without any bones of an argument. Accompanied by beautiful images and a soundtrack, and clever animations, it’s easy to lose focus and not notice that nothing coherent is being presented:

  • The worst are constant potshots at pills and the pharmaceutical industry, even bringing in the ‘world’s most hated man’, Martin Shrkeli, for a cameo. The greed of industry and some pharmaceutical companies, and unfair drug pricing, have NOTHING to do with this film, except to give viewers the feeling that pharmaceutical companies and pills are bad.
  • A number of the speakers say that Western medicine is only useful in acute cases, such as say a car accident. They clearly say for chronic and long-term conditions that pills are ineffective. This is blatantly untrue. Some medications are keeping many people alive. How irresponsible to imply that they are not.
  • Right from the beginning, it jumps from the idea that emotions can cause ill health, to saying that repressed emotions, unhappy childhoods, and society’s general fear and anxiety cause serious illness. The illustration is one of the two women featured, who had stage 4 cancer, which has now been in remission for three years. But you can’t talk about fear and then jump to a woman with cancer. Cancer is not freaking caused by fear. If you’ve heard of the magnificent book, The Emperor of All Maladies, it does note that one in two men and one in three women in the USA will develop cancer, a frightening statistic, but also describes that so many conditions are called cancer, and that cancers are so different from each other, that the word almost becomes meaningless. In this documentary, cancer has almost become a metaphor for the bogeyman, any illness at all, any condition, that is caused by our emotions, toxins, karma or bad eating but can be healed by faith, placebo, prayer, visualisations and letting go of our negative emotions.
  • But I don’t agree. A woman with a PhD cheerily talks about all the techniques used by people whose cancer went into remission. I met, by chance, a few weeks ago a friend of a friend who I knew had been in the hospital. I found out that he found out, suddenly, that he had pancreatic cancer, and almost died, but has now survived (the five-year survival rate is 7%). I am almost certain that he tried none of these techniques mentioned and relied on his doctors and ‘conventional medicine’. There’s simply no evidence of why the woman in the documentary has survived her cancer.
  • In the meantime, the other focus of the documentary is a woman with a terrible skin condition. She tries a few alternative therapies (including tapping, by someone who is also a ‘reiki master’, this is where reiki is mentioned) and nothing works.
  • One of the people giving her a treatment is a neuroacoustic wizard. Really. It shows him playing with dials and machinery to produce a sound frequency to heal her, before concluding that she is so stressed out that when he found that frequency, her body just bounced out of it. Or something like that. I mean: WTF.
  • They complain about her lack of options with Western medicine (antibiotics or steroids) but there’s no proof offered that turning away from Western medicine has helped in any way. It’s a deeply unsatisfying narrative.
  • Similarly, a session with a faith healer is shown with two people, very sick, and an audience, including the narrator (who is also the director and writer of the documentary), and… everyone cries but nothing happens. There’s no follow-up. Did the faith healing have any effect? It’s stirring music and tears that add up to emotional manipulation.

I could go on and on. It’s frustrating because there are ideas that are interesting and that I think people should hear: the benefits of meditation (though that’s not news), the benefits of self-enquiry and understanding childhood trauma, and what kinds of alternative and complementary therapy can help what kinds of conditions for which people.

Or maybe I’m just annoyed that reiki is mentioned, twice, but it’s not explained, just lumped in with the rest of the kinds of treatment. Though better not to be mentioned at all if it was going to be misrepresented.

The most basic formulation of an argument is missing in this film: something that says here’s the proposition, here’s some evidence, here are some detractors and counter-arguments, but here is the logic, proof or reasons why we believe something to be so.

Over the credits, she allows the speakers final words, a series of exhortations to heal ourselves and don’t give up and be happy. The last speaker, seeming to talk with or preach to an audience says: ‘Something is wonderful is happening. And we, we let it be. Now. And forever. And so it is.’ It’s a jumble of new age affirmations with a Beatles lyric thrown in, and adding up to no sense at all. A bit like this whole documentary. People interested in healing, and wanting to heal, deserve better than Netflix’s ‘Heal’.

Discover the gifts and benefits of a session of Japanese reiki therapy, healing energy from an experienced practitioner. Visit my website or Facebook page for more information and SMS, email, call me or book online if you’d like to make an appointment. Since 2011, I’ve given 1,000 reiki treatments.

Clients come to relieve stress, anxiety and for many other issues, or to just give reiki a try to see what it does for them. Folks come from all over Sydney and elsewhere to see me. While it’s easiest to get to me from the CBD, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Kings Cross, Redfern and Potts Point, I’m pretty easy to get to from anywhere in Sydney.

Posted in Well-being.


  1. Hello! Wonderful to have found you and your blog. You may remember me as Jeann Wright (pw) friend of Walters… He put me on to your site and it is awesome. I am starting my journey with Reiki. Completed level 1 with 2 coming in April. Im in Southern (Solana Beach) California now and agree about the swirl of misinformation about healing. Many charlatans here to weed through.
    Word of mouth is still the best connection IMO.
    I have had neurofeedback for many years after a head injury and can attest to its assist in my healing but no floundering about the frequency scale was done…pure science and methodology that is in constant study was used and successful in some areas of my journey.
    Now, i will watch the Netflix show to see what you mean. This surely , is not the way to forward the potential for different healings to work in tandem…accuracy must be maintained. These skip through documentaries leave seekers of health very vulnerable when they are indeed , often, too sick to make clear choices. Thank you for pointing out its flaws.

    So glad to have found your spot…all the very best to you.
    Thank you for all you do, Jeann

    • Hi Jeann! How nice to meet you again, and how great you’re getting started on your reiki journey. I’ll always be grateful to Walter for starting me off. That’s great you found a healing modality for your head injury; I’ll have to read up more about neuro-feedback. The problem with the documentary is it presented so many types of healing without really explaining them, or showing results. Best wishes (also for your Level 2)! And thanks for commenting. Andy

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