Saturday, January 29, 2005

Rory O'Shea Was Here

★ ★ ★ ★ What a unique and risky premise: two young men, both mentally astute but almost completely disabled with MS and cerebral palsy, leave the group home environment to get their own place in search of independence, romance and excitement. This is a story of friendship, love, and self-awareness. It has less to do with handicaps than with the development and growth of two unique and memorable characters.

Damien O’Donnell's directing keeps the story moving briskly, but it’s James McAvoy as the eponymous Rory O’Shea who steals the show with his bravura performance and riveting screen presence, even though he’s only acting with his face and two fingers. Steven Robinson is nearly as good as Michael Connelly, the MS patient who Damien befriends at the home. It really is hard to believe these two fine actors aren’t truly paralyzed. (Some of the audience thought they were.) Romola Gorai is the most likable of the bunch (how politically incorrect!) as the blonde the boys meet in a bar and convince to become their paid caretaker.

O'Donnell manages to tell this story with extraordinary grace and humor. In the process, he shatters some of our expectations about the physically handicapped, while never forgetting to entertain us. Thank you, and bravo!

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