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

| Documentary, Short
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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Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Mark O'Brien ...
Himself
...
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Ian Berzon ...
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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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Quotes

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

 
Live for not matter what your misfortune, condition or plight, you are so fortunate to have been given the opportunity!
25 February 2001 | by (North American Continent, Earth) – See all my reviews

This is an absolute exceptional film taking you into the mind, life, struggle, joy, depression, love, and eventual (beyond the film) death of a completely developed person but physically fully incapacitated.

Think of where most of us may find ourselves in the coming 30 to 50 years and you may see yourself in Brian's place though he was strickened so much earlier in life.

Thank Jessica for doing a superb performance in documenting this person's life. Will never forget her remarks at the Academy Awards where she so humbly remarked (and I paraphrase) that it was indeed a gala where the dress you were wearing to it cost more than what it cost to make the film.

And thank you Brian!


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