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Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien (1996)

 -  Documentary | Short
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 103 users  
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Portrait of writer Mark O'Brien, who contracted polio as a child and spent much of his life in an iron lung.

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Title: Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien (1996)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Mark O'Brien ...
Himself
...
Herself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ian Berzon ...
Himself
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Storyline

According to Mark O'Brien, "The two mythologies about disabled people break down to one: we can't do anything, or two: we can do everything. But the truth is, we're just human." O'Brien was a frequently published journalist and poet, and a contributor to National Public Radio. He contracted polio in childhood and, due to post-polio syndrome, spent much of his life in an iron lung. Yet for more than forty years, he fought against illness, bureaucracy and society's conflicting perceptions of disability for his right to lead an independent life. Breathing Lessons breaks down barriers to understanding by presenting an honest and intimate portrait of a complex, intelligent, beautiful and interesting person, who happens to be disabled. Incorporating the vivid imagery of O'Brien's poetry, and his candid, wry and often profound reflections on work, sex, death and God, this provocative film asks: what makes a life worth living? Written by Meredith Miller

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Documentary | Short

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Did You Know?

Quotes

Mark O'Brien: Everybody becomes disabled unless they die first.
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Soundtracks

Piano by Sandra Tsing Loh
Guitar by Mike Miller
Cello by Mark Salzman
Cello improvisations by Mark Salzman
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User Reviews

An ineffable testimony to life, death and dreams.
5 May 2003 | by (oakland ca) – See all my reviews

I can't agree more with the comments made by an earlier viewer of this film. Mark O'Brien's life was lived to the fullest with more courage, guts and compassion than many of us "able bodied" persons. His witty observations serve in their own way as a trenchant critique of a society obsessed with physical beauty and athletic prowess. This is a man whose sexuality, dreams and demons forged a unique and unforgettable life. I came away from the film both humbled by my own pretensions yet exalted by Mark's refusal to give up. (He was an unbending opponent of assisted suicide.) Look for it at your public library. I challenge you to watch this film and not come away a changed person.


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