It’s summer blockbuster season, and I’m ready to go to the theater! Fast & Furious 6 ... The Great Gatsby ... Star Trek (or, more precisely, Zachary Quinto) ... But, if you’re waiting to rent them, I have a few Netflix selections to tide you over. Allow me to present my favorite disability-themed films:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. As there are subtitles, I recommend this one to the foreign film fans. It tells the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who is coping with locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke. Bauby decides to stop pitying himself and, with his left eye, imagination, and memory, manages to write an extraordinarily moving memoir. (You should definitely read the eponymous book after watching the film.) Très bien!
My Left Foot. For those who follow the Oscars, watch Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of real-life author and artist Christy Brown. Brown, living with cerebral palsy, must prove his value to his father, friends and love interests. His story is human, and the film shows a full gamut of emotions. The sometimes intense subject matter is broken up by Brown’s wit and relatable humor, and I particularly enjoy the scene where Brown slams back hard liquor through a straw.
Rory O’Shea Was Here. Particularly meaningful to young adults, but sure to be loved by any dramedy fan, this film tells the tale of Rory and Michael. The two young men meet in a nursing home, and Rory, who has muscular dystrophy, is the only one who can understand Michael’s speech. Although Rory is into the punk scene and Michael is very straight-laced, they develop a friendship and work toward living independently. This film also answers that nagging question in the back of everyone’s mind: What happens when someone in a wheelchair deserves to be arrested?
The Sessions. If you’ve ever wanted to see John Hawkes or Helen Hunt naked, this is the film for you! Our first U.S.-based selection tells the story of Mark O’Brien, a polio survivor who lives in an iron lung and wants to lose his virginity. His carnal desires are stymied by his physical condition, and are further complicated by his devout Catholicism and psychological hang-ups. O’Brien hires Cheryl Cohen-Greene to help him work through these issues. Before watching the film, read O’Brien’s poetry; it’s widely available online.
The Cake Eaters. If you don’t like any of the above films, I’m going to call you out as a weirdo. And if you are a weirdo (or a Kristen Stewart fan since the two may go hand in hand), you will love this one. Teenaged Georgia, who has Friedreich’s ataxia, befriends Beagle, a man who works at her school cafeteria and just lost the mother for whom he had cared for in illness. This relationship is one of several in the film, and overall themes include loss, love and responsibility.
While you wait for your popcorn to pop, be sure to tell me your favorite movies with disabled characters below!