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Rory O'Shea Was Here

Rory O'Shea is no Randle McMurphy. The brash, spiky-haired youth's tenure at staid Carrigmore, a living facility for the disabled, is clearly meant to echo McMurphy's catalytic effect on the mental patients of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but unfortunately, Rory smacks more of petulance and resentment than true rebellion in Rory O'Shea Was Here (2003). Not that he doesn't have plenty to resent — muscular dystrophy has rendered the 20-year-old virtually immobile, the prisoner of an electric wheelchair. During his time at Carrigmore, Rory (James McAvoy) finds an unlikely partner in crime in similarly wheelchair-bound Michael (Steven Robertson), a rule-following cerebral palsy patient whose attempts at speech are unintelligible… for everyone except Rory. Faster than you can say Nell, newly minted interpreter Rory is forcing Michael outside his comfort zone and teaching him how to really live (by a 20-year-old's definition, anyway; Rory's first stop on Michael's Tour of Life is to introduce him to the joys of women and booze). The stakes are raised when the guys leave Carrigmore for a flat of their own and hire the lovely Siobahn (Romola Garai) to be their aide. The perils of choosing the person who bathes you and brushes your teeth based solely on her spunk and pretty smile quickly become apparent, as both Rory and Michael find themselves hopelessly smitten. It would all be a lot more heartbreaking if it wasn't quite so blatant. Jeffrey Caine's screenplay couldn't make it clearer that in order for Rory and Michael to truly become independent, they first have to grow up and learn some difficult life-lessons — hardly a fresh storytelling angle. And while McAvoy and Robertson both do some impressive acting (Robertson's physical transformation into a cerebral palsy sufferer is particularly remarkable), it's hard to forget that they are acting, and that both were able to leave their chairs at the end of a day's filming and walk to the pub for a pint. Very few movies about disabled characters hit the right balance between sentimentalism and condescension, and while Rory O'Shea Was Here does it better than some (K-Pax, anyone?), it's still too calculatedly emotional to ring true. Universal/Focus Features brings the film to DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (French and Spanish subtitles are available, as are English closed captions). Extras include two deleted scenes, one extended sequence, and an alternate ending — which, if it hadn't been changed, would have really pushed the movie's corniness level to 11. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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