This documentary offers up tidbits and scraps from the history of studies on drugs such as LSD, MDMA, psilocybin and ayahuasca to show the many benefits to individuals and society. Researchers show how the properties of psychedelic (literally meaning "soul-manifesting") drugs can ease anxiety for terminally-ill patients and how they can be healing for people in physical and mental distress. Various experts describe the feelings of connection and loss of ego that are central to this class of drug experience and wonder why they have been discouraged when they have so much to offer.
I thought the range of investigation in this film would be wider than it is. In order to make this work as a very specific investigation, Director Oliver Hockenhull really needed to focus and edit his final product more. The premise is intriguing but it fails just a little in almost every area. So many interesting ideas are touched on here but in order to put together a cohesive story or thesis it is up to the viewer to do the work. The interesting questions about the function of the brain, the nature of reality, the cultural uses of drugs and the definition of medicine are all here, but they are lost in an unwieldy structure (or lack of it).
Visually, From Neurons to Nirvana is embarrassingly literal. There is not too much to work with - a lot of talking heads. But when imagery is used it is clumsy and obvious ie. when a speaker mentions that while under the influence of psychedelic substances time as we know it ceases to exist, an hourglass appears and then shatters.
The director mentioned that this cut was the "more esoteric" one but even that did not seem to explain the flabby structure. I feel like a lot more diligence was needed to make a solid film. I would also have been happy to see a much weirder film which as least somehow reflected the subject matter in an unusual of challenging structure.