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 10 Films about disability that you need to see.
“Inside I’m Dancing” (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.
Intouchables 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! Recently there was a remake of this film called “The Upside”. However, I refuse to watch it, not only because it has had terrible reviews but also because I don’t see the point of its existence. Do yourself a favour and just watch the original instead.
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 Stephen 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.
My Left Foot (1989)
My left foot is a true story about a man called Christy Brown who has cerebral palsy. As a child he couldn’t speak and could only use his left foot. When he was a child everybody thought he was an idiot basically, even his family. But he still managed to write a book which is what this film is based on.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
This is a true story about a French man named Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby suffers a stroke and becomes paralysed as a result, being only able to move one eye. The film is mostly shot from Bauby’s point of view, so the audience sees what he sees and we hear his thoughts. It is a moving and inspirational film and provides an insight into what it might be like to be trapped in a paralysed body.
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
This is a film about a guy called Trevor who has muscular dystrophy. Trevor spends most of his time sat indoors watching TV and eating the same foods every day. One day he gets a new carer who persuades him to go on a road trip across America which broadens his horizons. This is a light-hearted comedy which I found quite amusing. Although it’s only available on Netflix.
This is a true story about Robin Cavendish who became paralysed at the age of 28 after contracting polio. Cavendish became paralysed in 1958 at a time when disabled people weren’t expected to achieve anything in life, nor even expected to live for very long. Most paralysed people simply laid in bed in the hospital staring at the ceiling. But Cavendish with the help of his wife and friends managed to escape the hospital and live a fulfilling life. He also became an advocate for improving the lives of those paralysed by polio.
Walk. Ride. Rodeo. (2019)
Another true story. This time about Amberley Snyder who is a champion American barrel rodeo rider. At the age of 19 she is almost killed in a car crash and she becomes a paraplegic. Even though she can’t walk any more she is determined to start riding again and competing in rodeo which she loves.
Margarita with a Straw (2014)
This is an Indian film about a girl with cerebral palsy called Laila. Laila leaves her home in India to go and study at university in New York. Along the way, she falls in love and explores her sexuality – much to the dismay of her mother. I was pleased to find that this film is available on Netflix with English subtitles.