Having focused his ire on gun ownership and the war on terror, Michael Moore now turns his attention towards another unholy mess: private healthcare in America. In typical Moore style 'Sicko' is brash, brazen and big on brush strokes, it's also a film that's as important as it is depressing.

We've all heard the horror stories about the Irish person without private health insurance in the US who gets a bill that would flatten Hercules but, unusually, Moore's film isn't about the indignities suffered by those without private healthcare: it's about the ones suffered by the Americans with it.

We meet the couple who have to move into their daughter's storage room after selling the family home because their health insurer won't cover their bills; the 79-year-old man who's working at a supermarket to pay for his and his wife's prescriptions; the Detroit mother who hightails it over the border to Canada to get her daughter's medication and the Ground Zero workers who can't get the attention they need - people who have realised that, when it comes to big business, people like them just don't matter.


We've become used to Moore's madcap methods - here bringing the Ground Zero workers to Guantanamo Bay and then Havana for treatment - at this stage but, like all his films, you'll be wiser and more frightened by the end of 'Sicko'. It paints a very bleak picture of American society and how the values which inspired and attracted so many have become buried underneath the bottom line. Moore believes that Americans have allowed themselves to be put on a treadmill of work, fear and debt, where people feel they don't have the power to stand up for what's right.

Moore's critics on both the right and left accuse him of being too simplistic in his approach and, once again, they'll find things to point at in 'Sicko'. Travelling to Britain to experience the National Health Service, Moore depicts it as some kind of utopia - had he caught a flight to Dublin and done the same thing Irish viewers would be convinced 'Sicko' should be on a double bill with 'The Wizard of Oz'.  The film also lacks power in parts because he doesn't doorstep the CEOs of the private healthcare providers. To watch them squirm like their customers would, you imagine, have been a tonic for many.

Despite those faults, 'Sicko' really deserves your time. Its message is simple: as the world becomes ever more Americanised, there are certain things no caring society should be willing to copy. It's certainly a very timely film for Irish viewers, who will leave the cinema realising that, as bad as we've treated each other, we haven't sunk this low. Do you hear yourself saying, 'yet'?

Harry Guerin