Disabled people are not often well represented on film and TV. There seems to be a distinct lack of disabled characters in soaps or dramas, and in films. So it’s always refreshing when a film comes along that specifically focuses on disability and has disabled people as the main characters. However a few films have come under fire for casting able-bodied actors in a role as a disabled person, when a disabled actor could have done the job just as well. Nonetheless there are some really good films out there that focus on disability. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are five must see films about disability.
- “Inside I’m Dancing”, aka “Rory O’Shea was here” (2004)
This is a comedy which centres on two young disabled guys, Rory and Michael, who are intent on living life to the full and escaping the care home in which they live. Rory, being rebellious, leads Michael on adventures into the outside world in pursuit of independence. The film is funny but also moving, and highlights the fact that you need to make the most of whatever hand you are dealt in life. James McAvoy and Steven Robertson star as Rory and Michael respectively.
- Untouchable (2011)
Untouchable (“The Intouchables” in France) is a French comedy, based on a true story, about a rich quadriplegic and his ex convict carer. On the face of it the pair seem an unlikely match but, like they say, opposites attract and they strike up a lasting friendship. This is an excellent film and shows that if you find the right carer, who has the right attitude, then there is much fun to be had in life. It has won many awards, and rightly so. Well worth watching!
- The Sessions (2012)
Unable to move after contracting polio as a child, writer Mark O’Brien, spends most of his life in an iron lung to help him breathe. After realising that he is “nearly past his use by date” he decides to hire a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity before it’s too late. The film follows Mark (John Hawkes) and his sex surrogate Cheryl (Helen Hunt) as they embark on a number of sex therapy sessions aiming to explore Mark’s sexuality. The Sessions is a funny and moving exploration of the issues of sex and disability that will make you laugh, and probably will also make you cry. Excellent film!
- The Theory of Everything (2014)
The Theory of Everything is based on Hawking’s wife Jane Wilde’s book “My Life with Stephen Hawking”. The film tells the story of how Hawking developed his famous theories about the origin of the universe and black holes whilst at Cambridge University. The film also shows Hawking’s battle with Motor Neurone Disease which gets progressively worse. Eddie Redmayne, who plays Hawking, was fantastic in the role and at times it was easy to believe that we were watching Hawking himself on screen. Even Stephen Hawking himself had said that it was like looking into a mirror! Eddie Redmayne thoroughly deserved his Best Actor Oscar.
- Avatar (2009)
Avatar, directed by James Cameron, is set in the 22nd century where humans are trying to colonise a moon called Pandora in order to mine its natural resources. Pandora is inhabited by a species called the Na’avi and there is a certain amount of tension between them and the humans. The humans use genetically engineered bodies of the Na’avi (Avatars), remotely controlled by a human mind, to interact with the locals. I know this film is not about disability per se but one of the main characters is a paraplegic who gets to control one of the avatars. I like this idea because in the film it meant whilst he was controlling the avatar he was no longer disabled. He basically had two bodies, a human disabled one and an alien able-bodied one. I would love to be able to control a different body for a while just like in the film, because for a while at least I wouldn’t be disabled anymore. I could use the avatar to go places and do things that I wouldn’t normally be able to do, which would be awesome! Interestingly there is a Russian billionaire who is actually trying to make mind -controlled avatars a reality by 2035. I talk about this in my post about robots which you can read here if you are interested.
So there you have it, my five favourite films about disability. What ones have I missed? What are your favourites? Please let me know in the comments!