James McAvoy……….Rory O’Shea
Steven Robertson……….Michael Connolly
Tom Hickey……….Con O’Shea
Gerard McSorley……….Fergus Connolly
Focus Features and Studiocanal and Working Title Films present Rory O’Shea Was Here. Story by Christian O’Reilly. Written by Jeffrey Caine. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated R (for language).
An interpreter can be a valuable resource, communicating to others information that could very easily be lost in translation. Rory O’Shea Was Here is more than a story about interpreting the thoughts and feelings of a man with cerebral palsy. It is a life affirming film about two friends who are determined to face the world and not let their handicaps diminish their spirits.
At the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled, Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson) is content, but his cerebral palsy makes his speech near impossible to make out. When he tries to warn Eileen (Brenda Fricker) the Home’s head nurse about an accident that’s waiting to happen, he fidgets with his face and tries to point, struggling with his arms. Too late. One of the nurses walks into the rec room and trips over an outstretched vacuum cord.
Then situations change. Rory O’Shea (James McAvoy) arrives at the institution and shakes up the place with his constant swearing and his unwillingness to participate in arts and crafts. Rory is talkative and energetic but doesn’t let his muscular dystrophy, which has left him with the ability to use two fingers on one hand, upset him. He’s bored, though. And in boredom he lashes out in a Randle McMurphy/Cuckoo’s Nest-type of way. Rory isn’t crazy, but he can’t stand being cooped up in the home.
Trying to raise donations for the disabled care facility, Rory and Michael see it as an opportunity to wheel around town and enjoy life’s simple pleasures: drinking and dancing. The two try to gain access to a nightclub only to be turned down. The quick-thinker he is, Rory begins to raise his ire about the discrimination taking place, telling the bouncer he is violating his and Michael’s civil rights. Access granted. Inside the club the two dance and drink and have a swell time. Arriving home a few hours too late, the two buds empty their collection buckets only to reveal a few pounds.
Michael may be introverted and Rory may be outgoing, but they have more in common than one might think. Rory understands every word that Michael mutters, having shared a room with a guy that makes Michael look like Laurence Oliver. If there are any misconceptions about this friendship, they are extinguished when Rory asks to Michael, “Don’t you want to get drunk, get arrested, get laid?” This is but one of the catalysts that prompt Rory and Michael to leave the care home and experience the real world.
A board of supervisors doesn’t think Rory is ready to leave the institutional world for independent living. So, Rory convinces Michael to put on a suit and apply for independent living, even though Michael doesn’t mind the care home. Michael’s application is approved and he is insistent that Rory be his interpreter. Free at last.
Outside the institution the film switches gears emphasizing the humanistic qualities of Rory and Michael and the people who impact their lives. Meeting his father Michael tries to hold back the tears but can’t. His father all but disowned him after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Looking around the office Michael sees a picture of his father and a teenager with a diploma. It’s not fully explained, but seeing his father slide over in front of the picture you get the idea that there was life after Michael Connolly.
Freedom does have its limitations. They still need someone to take care of them. Posting a want ad for a caregiver, the two friends get an odd assortment of characters applying for the job. Just a quick note: avoid hiring a person who cannot speak or one who babbles on and on about the cookies given to him to eat. By shear luck Rory and Michael see a woman they encountered at the nightclub. They meet Siobhan (Romola Garai) in a supermarket, and convince her that life as a caregiver is more rewarding than stacking shelves. She admits the job is just temporary. Yeah, tell that to the hundreds, thousands maybe, of screenwriters serving tables in Los Angeles.
Seeing a beautiful-looking female is cause enough to want to speak with her, to listen to her. Not always for a chance at sexual relations, but just because. Siobhan is an attractive woman. So when Michael gets a crush on her it’s not surprising to us, the viewing audience. Michael showing his love is another matter, because Rory must interpret. It is in this discourse that we get the best scenes of the film. Scenes where we can relate to Michael. Typically, we misinterpret a person’s gratitude, making the mistake of believing there’s something more. Siobhan is paid to take care of Rory and Michael, not to fall in love. Just because she spends most of the hours of the day acting as a caregiver, does not mean she hasn’t a life of her own.
Upon watching the film I was fascinated to find out that both James McAvoy and Steven Robertson have the use of their arms and legs. McAvoy I suspected, but Robertson was truly convincing as a man afflicted with cerebral palsy.
The three leads are charismatic on screen. Rory O’Shea is the type of friend you would want to have. Spiking his blonde locks with gel and listening to punk rock, he becomes a “free” spirit. Confined to his wheelchair, he lives his life to the fullest. Michael Connolly is a realist. Even when he was allowed into independent living, Michael was hesitant to leave the care home. Adjusting to change is never easy. Siobhan is beauty personified with those deep set eyes of hers. But as a caregiver she does her job with ease. Siobhan may say she does the job for the money, but intrinsically I bet she enjoys the attention.
Rory O’Shea Was Here is a film that can strike a cord with audiences. Watching the friendship development between Rory and Michael you can’t help but feel something for them. Seeing how they live their lives it makes us want to reconsider ours. We may think our jobs or lives are constraining, handicapping our bodies to menial tasks, but it pales in comparison to the situations wheelchair-able bodies experience day after day.
VIDEO: How does it look?
Presented in its original theatrical presentation of 2.35:1, the video transfer is remarkably good. This import from across the Atlantic has some minor pictures issues, like grain, but there isn’t a lot. The lighting is downplayed in some scenes, giving the characters a muted complexion. I don’t know if this was director Damien O’Donnell’s intent or not. But with the darkened faces an emphasis is placed on the triumvirate’s unique clothing attire.
AUDIO: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is sufficient enough for a film like Rory O’Shea Was Here. From time to time you may grab your remote control to turn up the volume to decipher what Michael is talking about, though. The disc also comes with Spanish and French subtitles and English captions, which don’t help when Michael is talking. All the captions have is “mumbling” when Michael speaks. A great addition would have been a subtitle track specifically for Michael’s character. It worked for the Snatch DVD and Brad Pitt’s Mickey character.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes and an extended party sequence.
Not an excess amount of supplemental material, but the deleted scenes are worth watching. Included with the deleted scenes is an alternate ending which kind of works for the film. It has Michael attending school and having some fun with kids in the neighborhood. Don’t be tempted to view this scene before watching the feature. By watching it after you can surmise your own opinion. See if it works for you.
Besides the forced trailers of the upcoming DVD special edition release of The Big Lebowski, Northern Exposure: Season 3, and a montage of Focus Features releases, the only other extra is the extended party sequence. The scene adds about forty or forty-five seconds. Most of it is inconsequential except the last part where Rory speaks on a microphone to Siobhan. Does it work? Yes and no. It just delineates what we already know to be true.