Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
A plot about a disabled man seeking sex sounds like this movie could be two things it is absolutely not, pornographic and emotionally manipulative. While, the film is in essence manipulating your emotions, these emotions are constantly earned and genuine, with the moments that instigate them never being overplayed. You immediately feel sorry for Mark due to his disability however for the rest of the film your emotions come not from his disability, but from the range of emotions that Hawkes is able to portray using just his face. Hawkes gives an absolutely transformative performance here and one that I hope and deserves to be met with much acclaim this awards season.
Hawkes portrays a very inspirational character, one who maintains his sense of humour and optimistic outlook on life despite what it has given him. You don’t just like Mark O’ Brien because you feel sorry for him, you like Mark O’ Brien because John Hawkes portrays him as an inspirational, real, likable and relatable person. The best shots of this film are close-ups on John Hawkes’ face. Seeing this film at the Zurich Film Festival I had the luck and pleasure to see John Hawkes two rows in front of me on stage, speaking before the film. It is the mark of how great an actor he is, that the man I saw in person, was worlds away in every sense, from the man I saw on screen. His performance is one that in any other year would easily take the Oscar and I’m hoping that he still does in what would be a huge, yet worthy, upset.
Helen Hunt was given the Golden Eye award at the Zurich Film Festival, right before the film began. Many are including her in the film’s Oscar conversations and I can see why. Hunt plays a very supportive, realistic and likable character. She is not developed as much as she could have been in regards to her character’s personal life, however this is very much O’ Brien’s story and I can understand and support the film’s narrative and characterization focus being on him.
As well as seeing Helen Hunt and John Hawkes before the film began, I also saw the film’s writer and director Ben Lewin. Lewin perfectly balances the comedy and the drama in this film, with one of the film’s more emotional moments being followed by one of its funniest, with the transition not seeming at all jarring or contradictory. Lewin has written a tight screenplay here, which while it could have developed its supporting characters more, moves along at a quick pace and is the perfect length for a film with a story of this kind. Lewin has crafted a very respectful, tasteful and sensitive film, one that never bored me and one that never hits a false note in regards to its portrayal of disability. Lewin, who has himself experienced polio, has made a film that I am sure O’ Brien would be, and his family are proud of. While the film is arguably visually stale, the script and the performances shine so brightly and 50% of that is due to the fact that Lewin doesn’t attempt to make himself the star, by taking flashy and stylistic flourishes with the camera. Therefore, any negatives I have with Lewin’s handling of the material, development of supporting characters and lack of visual dynamism. In fact reveal themselves to be positive due to the perfect pace and brilliant performances they result in.
This was in a way, the perfect film for me to begin my Zurich Film Festival. It symbolizes everything these sort of festivals should be about, bringing to light films and performances of a unique nature, that would be missed by the mainstream.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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