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Thursday, September 1, 2005

The Casual Critic — Rory O'Shea was Here

I will fully admit I am prejudiced regarding the worth of films like Rory O'Shea was Here (aka I'm Dancing Inside in the U.K.). As a disabled individual, I compare the lack of films, books, art, etc., devoted to people with disabilities to the same issues faced by African Americans years ago. Any film even attempting to portray disabled characters in a realistic, non-cutesy, way is worthwhile.

Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy) moves in at the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled, and begins to bond with Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson), a young man with severe Cerebral Palsy whose speech is so impaired few can understand him. Rory has Muscular Dystrophy, and is a free spirit not about to conform to the docile life prescribed by the home. He understands Michael quite well, and lures him out of his shell into the world outside the home. The two ultimately strong-arm Michael's public figure father who abandoned him after his mother died (as well as a government agency) into providing them with their own place. Leaving the home behind, they face life on their own along with a personal aide (Siobhan, played by Romola Garai), whom they pull out of nowhere.

Though a bit predictable, O'Shea does a solid job of dealing with the fight almost anyone with a significant disability goes through to find the same respect automatically given those considered "normal." There are some truly funny moments in this story that remains refreshingly focused on the friendship between two young men. The film avoids sap, and never falls into cliché mode.

One of the most poignant moments of the film occurs at a party to which Rory and Michael accompanied their assistant. Michael attempts to make his affection for Siobhan known, only to be thwarted. After Michael departs what becomes an awkward scene, Rory positions himself behind a microphone to voice his friend's desire. Siobhan's response is to simply push the microphone away.

The following scene shows Siobhan telling Michael she only sees him as an employer, while Rory interprets for Michael from the other room. Powerful in many ways, the scene shows a bond between the two friends that I'd gamble few ever experience, and faces the issue that people with disabilities have the same sexual urges as the rest of the world.

My only problem with the film may be my own unfair desire to get more out of such films, simply because they are so rare. I'm not sure most viewers (assuming people not already familiar with people with disabilities would bother to watch) get Michael's seemingly awkward approach to showing Siobhan how he felt. He's never had any experience with women. I also think they could have made Michael a touch more understandable for the sake of the film. I have the same problem with my speech, so I'm certainly not questioning the reality they displayed. But, I’m usually able to eventually understand other people with speech impairments, and making this fictional character slightly more understandable may have helped viewers empathize with him even more.

I could go on and on with what I wanted more of, but I think that's more about the rarity of films like this one than any true flaws. It's worth mentioning that the acting of McAvoy and Robertson is incredible, never once giving a false moment to their characters.

Make a point to see this film. It offers up a reality not seen enough in entertainment, especially when the sap is left out.

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