The more cynical of you out there might be sighing heavily with the thought of watching another film about a successful person being struck with an illness/accident ending up with a serious affliction and triumphing over all the odds. When it is put that way it sounds like your average movie of the week. Missing out on seeing this film would be a serious error in judgment on your part. There is nothing average about the film about the Elle magazine editor who has a stroke then ends up only being able to blink his left eye in order to communicate, but ends up dictating a story to an assistant.
Everything about the film is a marvel. The way it looks, the story, the acting, and its originality. In order to distance it (by miles) from a movie of the week, director Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls, Basquiat) has made the telling of the film completely from the main character Jean-Do (Mathieu Almaric – The Grand Budapest Hotel, Quantum of Solace). This makes a very personal film even that much more so. You really get an idea of how frustrating and claustrophobic Jean-Do’s condition would be for a person. He is a prisoner in his own unresponsive body with a brain that is still fully functional.
Due to the fact that Julian Schnabel (son of a famous artist) is the director there may be some of you out there who stay away from the film thinking that it will be artsy and dark. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, it is about a man who is almost completely paralyzed due to a stroke, but rather than being depressing it is really about the strength of the human spirit and what is possible. Wisely Schnabel has even managed to lighten everything by sneaking in the occasional moments of humour.
Showing his strength and confidence as a director, the opening scenes of the film are amazing and arresting. No starting off slowly by Schnabel for as the title says he dives right in. He does show a more French or European style of filmmaking with his visual and presenting of story styles. Rather than being offputting they render the film so fluid you can’t imagine it done any other way.
Do yourself a favour and see this film anyway you can.