Inside I'm Dancing

Inside I'm Dancing


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Disability has been surprisingly successful in the cinema. Look at Rain Man, My Left Foot and Forrest Gump. What they do is connect with a core of humanity.

There is always a danger of milking sympathy by emphasising courage over self-pity. Like Willem Dafoe's character in Born On The Fourth Of July, the concept of the cripple-as-rebel is irresistibly attractive. A doe-eyed approach to those less fortunate is nothing but guilt wrapped in pretty towels. What the wheelchair anarchist says is "Stuff your pity!" Truth might be hard, but it's personal, and that's more real.

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Michael (Steven Robertson) suffers from cerebral palsy. He has limited control of his limbs and can't talk properly. Words gush out of his mouth in a twisted jumble of sound. Rory (James McAvoy) has muscular dystrophy, can move his head a touch and has the use of two fingers on one hand. His personality is expressed entirely through language and he is a master of the irreverent quip.

Their story is a fight for freedom. Trapped in a care home, Rory persuades Michael to make a break for it, not "over the wall" in the time-honoured tradition of high security escape movies - it would be impossible in their condition, anyway - but legally through the proper channels.

Despite his paralysis, Rory has an indefatigable spirit, breaking every rule and burning up the time he has left with irresponsible enthusiasm. Michael is more institutionalised and understanding of his limitations, although when they persuade Siobhan (Romola Garai), a girl they meet in a pub, to work for them as skivvy, nursemaid, helper and friend, he lays his heart wide open.

Behind Rory's positive outward show of defiant rhetoric lies a fatalist sensibility that recognises the foolishness of fighting the inevitable, as if screaming at death will frighten it away. Michael grows in the process of his adventure with Rory and his infatuation with Siobhan. The experience gives him a newfound confidence that might be mistaken for sentimentality.

The performances are flawless, the story laced with black humour. If the film feels manipulative and predictable, this is the nature of the subject matter, rather than any creative malfunction.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2004
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Inside I'm Dancing packshot
Anarchic behavior in a care home leads to freedom and independence for two disabled Irishmen.
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Director: Damien O'Donnell

Writer: Jeffrey Caine

Starring: James McAvoy, Steven Robertson, Romola Garai, Brenda Fricker, Gerald McSorley, Tom Hickey

Year: 2004

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/Ireland

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