One of the miracles of “76 Days” is its very existence: Filmed by journalist Weixi Chen and an anonymous co-director, with their images edited together by U.S.-based filmmaker Hao Wu, the film is a triumph of investigative commitment and perseverance. The project clearly wasn’t sanctioned by the Chinese government, making it a risky proposition at best; the film itself doesn’t betray that anxiety. Devoid of muckraking sensationalism, it instead evolves into something more tactful, and compassionate, as teams of exhausted medical professionals do anything to save their patients’ lives, or at least grace their final moments with gestures of caring and connection.
That humanity is another miracle, to be sure. But so is the sheer aesthetic elegance of a film that, despite being caught on the fly and edited just as quickly, possesses admirable visual elegance and quiet, rhythmic composure. For a film that contains so much pain, suffering and loss, “76 Days” is an improbable pleasure to watch, its wrenching stories serving as particularly timely when Americans face another outbreak amid the holiday season. This is a film about courage, as well as empathy, professionalism and resilience — and it’s a film that embodies those values itself. With luck, viewers will take its cautionary pleas to heart.