As a special needs parent, advocate and blogger, I get overwhelmed just as many other parents. Whenever I feel down or defeated, watching movies of triumph, inspiration, and perseverance offers me a sense of motivation, insight and sometimes creative revelations. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about my Top Ten most Inspirational Movies about Disabilities, and it’s still one of my most popular posts to date. Inspired by my reader’s interests and my love of movies that helped me get through some tough times, I thought I might write more often about movies that are disability related and recognized by the academy and other titans of film industry.
Still Alice - Julianne Moore plays a well-known linguistic professor who gets diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. The entire family is challenged with having to deal with the fact that the once brilliant mind of a loved one is slowly disappearing as their family situation becomes daunting and heart-breaking. I felt the overall takeaway of this movie was that it revealed how little information we have about the cruel disease and that there aren’t enough options (both bio-medically or psychologically) or supports for neither the patient or their family. Alec Baldwin plays the supportive husband, along with a stellar cast that includes Kirsten Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Shane McRae, and Hunter Parrish.
Silver Linings Playbook - This is a hysterical comedy/drama about a man named Pat who has bipolar disease (played by Bradley Cooper) and lives with his parents after recently being released from a mental institution. Despite the fact that Pat’s wife got a restraining order against him due to an explosive episode that lead to their inevitable split, he’s confident he can win her back. His parents, played by Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver, who are oddly obsessed with the Eagles, are not convinced their son is doing well enough to make amends with his long-gone wife (she has a boyfriend). Things really start to shake-up when he meets up with Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and she turns out to have some troubling issues to contend with of her own. The movie is charming, funny, and brings an awareness of the challenges experienced by those living with bipolar disease and the issues their families face as well. I loved it and I'm reminded that patience is such a necessity in the lives of individuals dealing with mental illness.
Ray – I don’t think there’s a living soul who doesn’t know the song “Georgia” and that it was sung by the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. In this fantastic biography, Ray is played by Jamie Foxx who did such a great job with his portrayal, anyone could’ve easily been tricked into believing Ray Charles played himself! This inspiring movie demonstrates the power of perseverance and how the human spirit is strong enough to overcome a challenging hand of cards. Although Ray lost his eyesight at the age of seven to glaucoma, witnessed the tragic loss of his younger brother, and was raised by a single mother struggling to make ends meet, he went on to be one of the world’s greatest musicians of all time. This is a must-see movie that will captivate you from starting to ending credits!
A Beautiful Mind – Russel Crowe stars in this film inspired by the true-life experiences of the ingenious mathematician John Nash. This seemingly odd, but brilliant man manages to lead decades of a life filled with success and love while unknowingly dealing with the debilitating effects of schizophrenia. Though his career was stopped short in its tracks due to his illness, the support received from his tenacious wife (played by the beautiful and talented Jennifer Connelly) and his willingness to beat the cunningly cruel disease, Nash would go on to win the Nobel Peace prize and overcome his life-long battle with the incurable mental illness. This is one of those movies that I will stop to watch if I’m channel surfing – whether it’s fifteen minutes into the movie or at the end of the movie! I admit, I love Russel Crowe and Ed Harris!
Born on the 4th of July – Some might say that it was this film that helped Tom Cruise’s career soar into recognition of great acting range and earning him a Golden Globe for Best Actor. A young teen with patriotic dreams of serving his country, enlists into the Marines right after high-school. This epic biography of Ron Kovic depicts the untold harsh realities of the Vietnam war. Kovic’s patriotic tone changes completely after becoming paralyzed during combat and returning to an unwelcoming and divided country. After surviving deplorable treatment at a Veteran Administrations Hospital and feeling betrayed by his beloved country, he becomes an anti-war activist. I think this film is one of Tom Cruises greatest movies and I can recall having quite a few controversial discussions after watching it. I would have to write that the greatest message of all in this film is two-fold. One is about learning to respect the varying disabilities and abilities of all people. It's important to uphold the dignity and integrity of individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities who have incredible difficulty or inability to care for themselves. The other is that even if you don’t support the purpose of war – it's important to support our troops. They need our protection, our respect, our loyalty and our support. They certainly earned it.
I’ll be writing another post soon, but please let me know what highly acclaimed film about life with a disability you feel is missing from this list!
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Author: Christine Goulbourne