When I don’t have the motivation for writing, studying Japanese or doing anything really, I love to watch films. Great films capture a story in a couple of hours; enough time to be taken into another world, but not enough time to take over your life (unlike certain TV series). During the cold winter nights here, I watched a string of films where the main characters have some sort of disability, and the love between them and their caregivers, or close friends, was so touching, I couldn’t help writing about them.
Here’s my thoughts on them.
This heart-warming film follows a mentally disabled man on his fight to keep custody of his daughter. Relationships between daughters and fathers are not normally the main feature of a film, but in this one it takes centre place and the honest, unadulterated loved expressed between Sam and his daughter will bring a tear to anyone’s eye. Sean Penn, plays the father and takes on a set of quirky mannerisms which make his character so believable (and for which he surely deserved an Oscar for), whilst Dakota Fanning plays the intelligent seven-year old daughter seamlessly. As well as the father-daughter relationship, an unusual bond between the workaholic lawyer, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sam develops. The lawyer decides to take on Sam’s case pro bono for the sake of her own cut-throat reputation, but it is Sam who ultimately has a lasting effect on her. The unconditional love Sam shows and the honest principles he lives, are impossible not to be moved by.
This award-winning French film is based on a true story about a man who goes from being Vogue’s chief editor to someone who can only blink with one eye. Monsieur Bauby used this method to write his memoirs, a book of the same title. The relationships he had, and continues to have, are the lingering signs of his former life. One telling flashback, is when he shaves his elderly father’s stubble, who is complaining of being trapped in his Parisian apartment. Now, so too Monsieur Bauby trapped in a body that he can’t control. This may seem like a depressing film, but it is not. The narration is speckled with humour, something the protagonist uses to cope with the frustrations of everyday life, like when a nurse turned the TV off when it was in the middle of a sports game. In his vegetable-like body he depends on nurses for his physical needs, and his speech therapist and his transcriber to give him hope for improvement. Often sitting wrapped up in a blanket on the beach, the beautiful green-eyed transcriber runs through the alphabet over and over, noting down the letter when he blinks. It’s this relationship of care that unveils a kind and compassionate man stuck in his immobile body. The film is so beautifully filmed that you can feel the wind in your hair as if you too were on the beach at Berck-sur-Mer, watching Monsieur Bauby struggle to come to terms with his new state of being and the consequences of his previous life.
If you want to laugh out loud until your stomach aches, watch this movie. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are the stars of this heart-warming film, and whose paths cross in an unsuspecting way. It’s in my top 10 movie list, for sure.
The Sessions (2012)
Another true story about a disabled man, Mark O’Brian, brilliantly played by John Hawkes, who lives in an ‘iron lung’, but has a desire to have sex before he dies. Helen Hunt plays a sex surrogate who is employed by O’Brian, but their relationship unintentionally develops into something much deeper. The film is based on O’Brien’s essay describing his experience with a sex surrogate, one of many essays he wrote advocating rights for disabled people. His poetry is beautiful too, like the one in the film ‘Let me touch you with my words’. Thoroughly recommended.
The Intouchables (2011)
If there is one film you choose to watch out of the above, let this be the one. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will leave you on a high for the rest of the week, especially as it is based on a true story. Like the other films in this list, the protagonist Philippe is a quadriplegic and needs someone who sees him as a whole person, not just someone who needs their legs massaged everyday. The star of the show is undoubtedly Omar Sy, who I imagine is almost the same person in real life: a larger-than life person with enough energy for ten people. He plays Driss, the caregiver to Philippe, and shows him how to enjoy life again. It’s a story of loyal friendship peppered with hilarious, stomach-aching moments.
I love films for the reason that they can take you into another world for a couple of hours and then drop you back on your sofa, on whatever continent you may be living on and with whomever you may be sharing a bowl of popcorn with, feeling like you’ve experienced more than you ever could in your lifetime.
Here’s a review of another film I loved, Life of Pi (2012). It was published in the Spring edition of the Fukui JET magazine, Jet Fuel.