So today, my bestie Amanda and I went to check this film out for ourselves, and let’s just say, it’s a mixed bag of emotions wrapped up in moments of what the fuckery with a tad bit of quirkiness that in some ways make this film charming, despite the film’s rather dark topic of physician assisted suicide and whether or not a disabled life is worth living.
Amanda and I have been close friends for about two years now, and I figured it would be fun to get both a disabled (my own) point of view as well as someone without any disabilities.
There were plenty of laugh out loud moments, which we found surprising given the movie’s dark overtone. Emilia Clarke’s character Lou is a fun, quirky hipster-ish type who, after losing her job, becomes a caregiver to Will, portrayed by Sam Calflin of Hunger Games fame. Will goes from a successful businessman to a quadriplegic overnight after a bad motorcycle accident. Despite his character being pretty much a self centered grump, he delivered many funny one liners that made his character more tolerable. Add Lou into the mix and you have a fairly cute couple worthy of better recognition than what the movie has gotten so far.
What kills the movie for me is Will’s train of thought, which at times doesn’t make sense. He mentions he wants the life he had before, he wants to have that sense of intimacy with Lou, and just be happy to “live boldly” and travel. But still insists on killing himself. To the novice movie watcher who never had the opportunity to be close to someone with severe disabilities, this can set the wrong message that death is a better fate than dealing with a disability.
However, one thing Amanda pointed out was a scene in which Will lands in the hospital due to Pneumonia, which in the scene, the mother and father mention that this is a fairly frequent thing for him. To Amanda, and for me as well now that I have seen the movie first hand, having a chronic illness such as frequent issues breathing and fighting off various illnesses, as well as issues regulating body tempature and blood pressure to a rather insane degree to the point where your kitchen cabinet looks like CVS Pharmacy blew up in it, makes his choice of death something valid; Surprisingly in the many blogs and reviews, this aspect of Will is never really mentioned.
However, from a disabled standpoint, hearing about Will and his struggles seem to be rather mediocre to me, taking chronic illness aside and focusing more on the paralyzed aspect. I see some of his complaints of his life as excuses, real worries covered up by “But I Can’ts”. Granted if this story took place in the 1960’s when my boyfriend Bill was born, those “Can’ts” were what society placed upon people who are differently abled. My problem is that this movie seems to take place in modern time. We live in the year 2016, where society has grown out of the stigma of disability as a death sentance and evolved into brilliant people doing amazing things despite their limitations. It’s the ability to adapt. Will could of gotten back in the office with assistive technology, I mean hell, look at Stephen Hawking, a man who deteriated over time but kept changing the world in the field of science and technology, armed with a special computer that helps him communicate. And let’s not forget that times have changed enough to where handicap accessibility has become more apparent, so his trip to Paris that was impossible to him could very well be reality.
But as Amanda said while discussing this on the ride home, “You can’t change people. Change has to come from within.”
Which makes me ponder more into the subject of Will’s care from the day of the accident to his death. Was some form of mental health offered to him? Did he develop PTSD because of the accident and just didn’t get it taken care of? Was there a case worker willing to help him transition back into the community? Sure the parents in the film are ridiculously loaded with cash and built him his own swanky apartment, but the question is why his mind wasn’t treated in addition to his body?
Oh, and don’t get me started on the parents.
To me, the parents often talked about and around Will as if he wasn’t there. And that trend plays out throughout the movie, as does the occausional slip up from his male caregiver. Since when did the script writers agree to talk about Will in third person instead of talking TO him? This to me makes it apparent that disability to the writers is considered a “second class” not capable of holding conversation.
As much as I loved Lou and her character, there were a few things that struck a chord with me that sort of make the more able bodied+disabled relationship look bad. She made it upon herself to be a savior in the movie, which to some, is acceptable and endearing. However, as a person in a similar role, I find this to be very stereotypical. I don’t see my partner as one that needs saving, although at times in our past, I had to play such role. I see him as a person. A human being capable of love and and giving back that love in return. Granted in the end, Will became her savior with his Will and Testament to Lou by granting her enough money to see the world and go to college, the real world doesn’t play that way, except when you’re in Anna Nicole Smith territory and essentially marrying a man close to his death for his money. That’s not how the real world works, sweetheart.
But then again, let’s not forget that this story doesn’t cover a real life event. Relatable to some who have had experienced trauma, but so far fetched, a fairy godmother building a carriage out of a pumpkin is more likely. And that is exactly what this movie is, a fairy tale with plot devices that both touch the hearts of the unknowing and rips the hair out of many who have been there.
Amanda and I enjoyed it for its cuteness aspect, a distraction from reality, but many things need to be fixed in how it would be better presented if Hollywood ever decided to dip into this territory again. Put the disabled person first, hire a disabled person to star in that role, do your research, and steer away from the mentality that the disabled should be pitied and not celebrated for their achievements. Same goes for book authors and anyone trying to dip into this category. There needs to be a change. And what better time to start than now?