42-year old Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) lives a life of wealth and excess, flitting between his three young children, a successful career as editor of Elle magazine and the bevy of beauties ready to satisfy his every need. But one day, on a drive with his eldest son, Jean-Do suffers a stroke and becomes a victim of ‘Locked-In Syndrome’, an extremely rare condition leaving him fully conscious but completely paralysed, except for blinking his left eyelid.
Beginning with the blurry, distorted hospital room swimming into focus, much of the film is shot from Bauby’s perspective, including the harrowing experience of having his right eyelid sewn up, seen from the inside. Amalric’s narration is wonderful, encapsulating the frustration of a man used to extreme independence, who now cannot wash, communicate or even move without another’s assistance, and praise must also be given to the supporting cast of implausibly attractive therapists and assistants tasked with acting to a camera for a lot of the film, and Max Von Sydow as Bauby’s elderly, apartment-bound father.
A story of triumph over intense adversary that does well not to dwell on the depressing, director Julian Schnabel amazingly mines humourous streaks – the agony of an immovable fly on the nose – whilst also celebrating the wonders of perseverance, memory and imagination.
Choose film 8/10