Published Mar 01, 2005Pauline Kael once wrote, "If we reject a work because it isn't totally good, then we may close ourselves off from the few emotional experiences left in recent films." So it is with Rory O'Shea Was Here, a film that is aesthetically and structurally quite conventional but still manages to resonate beyond its limitations.
It's the story of Michael Connelly (Steven Robertson), a young man with cerebral palsy trapped in a well-meaning but condescending nursing home; his salvation comes in the form of quadriplegic badass Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy), who can both translate Michael's slurred speech and introduce him to the concept of self-reliance. In a sense it's straight-up inspirational horse cookies, ringing all the standard bells of "believe in yourself" and "use the magic within." But too often its clumsy technique fails to give an interior voice to its heroes, and also too often it makes cute out of rambunctious and/or bawdy behaviour that ought to have a harder edge.
However, it pulls no punches in depicting the deadly condescension that poisons the protagonists' lives. From the do-gooders who treat care giving as self-righteous evangelism to the nursing staff that demands a paranoid politeness no "regular" person would have to endure to the complete invisibility to which their sexual lives are condemned, it piles on detail after detail until you collapse under the weight.
And though the film tries to pull heartstrings with its "pass the torch" ending, it manages to do it without saying everything is okay, merely that its previously housebound hero will be able to deal. It's a triumph of theme over presentation, though the producers should be rapped for not hiring disabled actors. (Alliance Atlantis)