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Inside I'm Dancing (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Extended 'Party' sequence. Deleted scenes. Featurette. Trailer.

ON THE surface, a film about the adventures of two wheelchair-bound friends, who suffer from muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, might seem like a hard-sell.

But thanks to Damien (East Is East) O'Donnell's breezy direction and the winning charisma of its two central stars (James McAvoy and Stephen Robertson), the film has a great deal to offer.

The two friends in question first meet at the Carrigmore Residential Home for Disabled People, a 'special home for special people', which is resided over by the formidable Nurse Eileen (Brenda Fricker).

Michael (Robertson) is a 24-year-old long-term resident, suffering from cerebral palsy, whose existence has been hum-drum to say the least.

His quiet existence is shattered, however, by the arrival of the rebellious Rory O’Shea (McAvoy), a sort of wheelchair-bound RP McMurphy (from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest fame), who sets about intimidating the home's staff and inspiring its dorment residents.

McAvoy plays O'Shea with a cunning mix of qualities - some objectionable, others deeply sympathetic - getting the balance just right most of the time.

His verbal volleys - while funny - are designed to inflict the utmost pain, yet he immediately strikes up a friendship with Michael because of his ability to understand his almost unintelligible speech.

Underpinning their relationship, however, is O'Shea's desire to live independently - a desire that is ultimately fulfilled with the help of Michael's decision to apply for a home for the two of them, which he secures with considerable ease.

Yet living together brings its fair share of problems, too, and the duo quickly recruit the services of Romola Garai's Siobhan (whom they previously met in a pub and club), who threatens to drive a wedge between them, as both develop feelings for her.

As unlikely as the situation sounds, however, O'Donnell manages to structure an absorbing, funny, poignant and ultimately empowering tale of triumph against the odds.

The film wisely avoids the temptation to become heavy-handed or patronising, seldom forcing the viewer's sentiments, or allowing things to become too sugar-coated.

Hence, despite a sluggish start, you'll be laughing along with the duo as they attempt to pull women with the proceeds from their charity collection, or as O'Shea races some of the children from the estate in his wheelchair, and you'll be crying by the time it reaches its affecting conclusion.

And while McAvoy undoubtedly has the showier of the two roles, newcomer Robertson invests a great deal of charm into his character (his look of exasperation is priceless), while the rapidly emerging Garai is also terrific as the object of the men's affections, who, ultimately, must disappoint them both.

It is a tribute to all concerned that they keep their characters grounded in reality, while O'Donnell, again, deserves praise for making sure that the film never seeks any conclusions that would undermine the journey.

Inside I'm Dancing won the The Standard Life Audience Award at this year's Edinburgh Film Festival, for being the biggest crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to see why.

It's an extremely liberating affair that is both a noble portrayal of the disabled people it depicts and a wickedly funny character-study to boot. Audiences can't fail to be moved by it.

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