Forty-three year old Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby - Jean-Do to his friends - awakens not knowing where he is. He is in a Berck-sur-Mer hospital, where he has been for the past several weeks in a coma after suffering a massive stroke. Although his cognitive facilities are in tact, he quickly learns that he has what is called locked-in syndrome which has resulted in him being almost completely paralyzed, including not being able to speak. One of his few functioning muscles is his left eye. His physical situation and hospitalization uncomfortably bring together the many people in his life, including: Céline Desmoulins, his ex-lover and mother of his children; Inès, his current lover; and his aged father who he calls Papinou. Among his compassionate recuperative team are his physical therapist Marie, and his speech therapist Henriette. Henriette eventually teaches him to communicate using a system where he spells out words: she reads out the letters of the alphabet in ... Written by
Saw this last night in Brussels (it's been on release for a while now). I was worried that it would be arty and depressing, but I was pleasantly surprised by how absorbing and moving it was. The opening scenes are striking, and communicate well the main character's feelings of claustrophobia and helplessness in the immediate aftermath of his accident, but as he attempts to rebuild his life and learn how to communicate, the film (and the visual style) opens up, even making room for some welcome flashes of humour. Performances are excellent, but the real stars here are the writer(s) and director, for taking us so convincingly into the character's world.
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