You & I (Nobody In The World), John Legend

John Legend holds up a mirror to women in this inclusive music video, featuring a representation of a young woman with Down Syndrome getting ready for school, a woman with vitiligo, and two older cancer survivors baring their mastectomy scars and bald head. I half expected it to be followed by a pitch for skin care products, but no ads were evident.

There was also a companion documentary shot to go along with the music video, called When I Look in the Mirror.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

On the set of John Legend's "You and I" music video, we asked 63 women what they see when they look in the mirror. "When I look in the mirror" is a behind the scenes exploration of each woman's thoughts and insights as they take a deep look into the mirror and reflect on themselves and their experiences. We conducted dozens of interviews over the course of twelve days to cultivate this collection of voices. From cancer survivors to a middle schooler facing bullying, each woman's answer is indicative of her unique life experiences. Through interview, vérité filming, and staged recreations, this short documentary will deeply explore female self-image, self-judgement, and ultimately, self-love.
#OperationGirl

Directed By: Kristelle Laroche and Ben Mullinkosson
Edited By: Andrew Heskett
Sound Design/Mix By: Andres de la Torre
Color By: Elliott Balsley
Original Score By: Trevor Doherty and John Legend

FLO

Despite blindness, multiple sclerosis, and lung cancer, photographer Flo Fox continues to shoot the streets of New York City. No longer able to hold a camera, she instructs her aides to take photos for her. Be sure to visit her website at http://www.flofox.com/.

The Fault in Our Stars trailer

How to Die in Oregon

Physician-assisted suicide documentary How to Die in Oregon comes down almost solidly on the side of legalized euthanasia. A man with advancing ALS decides to self-terminate before his mobility problems get to be too much. A woman with cancer decides to kill herself so that her end would be tidy, with no messy emotions or bodily fluids.

The only dissenting voice comes from a cancer patient who was denied a second round of chemotherapy on the grounds that it would not be cost-effective, and offered the option of physician-assisted suicide instead. Trembling with anger, he denounced the writer of the chilling letter that pronounced his death sentence, and was granted his second chance at chemo. But the incident illustrates what disability activists fear most about physician-assisted suicide; that those who want a chance at living with a disabling or chronic condition, or living as long as possible with a terminal condition, will not be offered treatment or services because of the cost. In the eyes of the state, the right to die will eventually become the duty to die.

50/50

There aren’t very many feel-good comedies about cancer, but if you gloss over the illness and disability part a bit as in 50/50 you come pretty close. Adam is diagnosed with a rare type of spinal cancer (the more syllables it has, the worse it is) and is promptly prescribed a round of chemotherapy and some new elderly friends with medical marijuana. (Since Adam doesn’t seem to worry about either bankruptcy from medical bills or arrest from medical marijuana, we can only surmise that 50/50 is set in Canada.) Adam considers his mother a Smother (when she’s not busy taking care of his befuddled dad) so turns to his buddies to help him through the crisis. His best friend Kyle makes jokes about his situation and uses it to attract women, but is a true and loyal friend when Adam’s girlfriend can’t handle the stresses of the low-level caregiving (dropping off and picking up Adam from chemo) she’s asked to perform. Reality only intrudes into Rachel’s world occasionally, when Adam pukes in the toilet, but when he finally gets angry enough at her to break up, she wails that he hasn’t considered how hard it is on her.

Though he doesn’t take Rachel back, it suddenly dawns on Adam just how hard it is on his mother taking care of his Dad. He further comes to the realization that she does so out of love, and not letting her take part in his caregiving is effectively shutting her out of her one son’s life (or death, as it may be). When chemo fails, Adam calls on her for support for a dangerous, last-chance surgery. She shows up at the hospital with her husband in tow. Though Adam’s dad doesn’t understand what’s happening or even who Adam is, he still has enough of the long-term memory synapses to know he loves Adam; they hug and both get weepy.

The surgery was a success, though the patient lost part of his pelvis, hip, and the myelin sheath of the nerve in one leg. Adam’s recovery from that must have been painful, expensive, and long, the movie skips ahead to when he’s “walking up a storm”, with better hair, better girlfriend, and better relationships with his mother and best friend.

Biutiful

Biutiful is a tale about Uxbal, a middle-aged man who is suffering from prostate cancer which becomes terminal during the course of the movie. In a struggle to save money in order to pay the rent and be able to leave money to care for his children financially after his death, he engages in a number of dodgy enterprises, including but not limited to drug dealing (in addition to using) and brokering the cheap labor of smuggled Chinese immigrants. It is later on, as the end becomes nearer, that he tries to repair his karma by confronting the snakeheads and trying to right this and some of the other wrongs he has commited in his life. When a Senegalese associate dies, he takes in his wife and child (and later ends up telling the wife to take care of his kids and handle the money). Uxbal remains physically active until near the end of his life, though he periodically enters the hospital for chemotherapy and other treatments. He is walking till the very end, though the toll the cancer takes is shown in scenes where he urinates blood, and walks home from a chemotherapy session whereupon he upchucks on the street. Near the end of the movie, he is shown wearing an adult diaper, which symbolizes the fact that the cancer is affecting him more physically, but he is keeping his suffering to himself.

Though he is far from an ideal parent to his two young children (the older of the two turns ten during the course of the picture), living in a shabby apartment and serving cold cereal piled high with sugar for dinner, he tries to be “present in his children’s lives” as he expresses it when he adds that his mother died when he was young, and he had never met his father. His grandfather had also been an absentee father.

While he is separated from the children’s mother Marambra, they do see and interact with one another on a regular basis. The children also spend some time visiting and, at times, temporarily living with, their mother, who initially seems to be the “more fit” parent, based on her more well-kept apartment and well-stocked refrigerator.

Marambra’s ability to be a properly functioning parent is negatively affected by her bipolar disorder. One one visit, Uxbal refers to her past alcohol abuse, and engages in some “checking up” on her. It is made clear that she has engaged in impulsive behavior in the past during manic states, and implied that she may be “self-medicating”. In one scene where she appears to be in a manic state, she is lively, gossiping, and amusing, as well as doting on the children. But on another occasion, she locks the little boy in the basement as a disciplinary measure. Somewhat later, it is made clear that the depressive phase of her condition is coming on. While I do not have any information about the state of affairs in Spain’s mental health system, Marambra makes reference to having previously gone to a “clinic” for her mental illness, where she was “tied up”. No psychiatric medications are seen or spoken of, and nor is electroshock.

Perhaps Marambra realizes she needs to regain her equilibrium for the sake of her children, because she goes to the clinic in spite of the deterrent of being restrained. Uxbal takes the children for the duration, and tells the children the truth, but he also tells them that while she needs to “rest” at the moment, they will be able to visit her later on “any time they want”. She is still in the clinic when Uxbal’s condition becomes worse and he dies.

The Oxford Murders

Our first glimpse of the myriad allusions to disability in The Oxford Murders is that of an elderly lady, Mrs. Eagleton, who rents out a room to Martin, a promising young mathematics student who just arrived at Oxford. It is not the intent of Disability Movies to unnecessarily conflate advanced age with disability; we are not shown explicitly what Mrs. Eagleton needed help with or why she had no home health aide–she seems perfectly able to walk to the door, feed herself and play board games–though she is described as a cancer survivor. Her daughter Beth is introduced as her sole caregiver, and vocalizes her resentment of that role to Martin.

Martin attempts to meet an old friend of Mrs. Eagleton, prominent mathematician Arthur Seldom. Seldom gives him the brush-off until they happen to visit Mrs. Eagleton’s home at the same time to find her dead, with a broken nose. The police briefly question her daughter, but Martin–who has been attracted to her–assures them she wouldn’t have done it. Instead, he turns their attention to a strange sequence of symbols they notice. The two mathematicians and the police concur that there’s something fishy about this, and speculate wildly about the meaning of the symbols.

(Permit me a brief digression while I inform you of the fleeting shot of a black cab stopping at a curb across the street from our protagonists during one such conversation about the interpretation of the symbols, and once the cab pulls away it becomes apparent that a wheelchair user and companion have disembarked. Huzzah for the wheelchair accessible London cab fleet!)

Here the movie takes a turn for the weird. Seldom and Martin visit an old friend of Seldom’s in the hospital, deranged triple-amputee Kalman. An able-bodied actor was used, necessitating an uncomfortable false bed for the actor and digital trickery to erase the superfluous limbs:

Kalman with a human skull, presumably before going bonkers.

Kalman is a great part. He exists only in flashbacks, and (since flashbacks are usually mute) there is no scripted dialogue. He starts off a young chap in the 1970s, with sideburns, wide lapels and garish ties: the makeup people give me fresh, prosthetic cheeks, my own being too old and sunken. This is just the beginning. Kalman is an Oxford don, driven mad by his inability to solve a complex mathematical quandary. His laboratory becomes a lair; he showers in the kitchen; he throws computer monitors through the window (yay!). In addition to going mad, Kalman develops horrible cancers: both his legs fall off. He gets to buzz around in an electric wheelchair for a while, carrying a skull. Then one of his arms falls off, and he’s last seen lying naked on a hospital gurney, writing one word repeatedly with his remaining hand.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/apr/18/2

Kalman, a triple amputee due to cancer and mentally ill due to... mathematics!

Kalman is portrayed in a dehumanizing manner; stark naked on his hospital bed, rear end instantly noticable. His remaining arm is encased in what looks almost like an Ilizarov or Taylor Spatial Frame used for bone lengthening, with which he scribbles on paper madly. His arm assemblage is suspended by wires to enable him to write with less fatigue, but succeeds in giving him a tragic, puppetlike appearance. Nurses come and go from the room, leaving the door open while they talk to others in the corridor with nary a thought for his privacy. His visitors don’t even bother to talk to him, not even to see if he’s aware of their presence or will talk about the symbols.

And do I really need to explain the idiocy of suggesting mathematics can be a vector for mental illness? Any student will say their calculus class is driving them crazy, but that’s only a figure of speech.

The mentally ill and intellectually disabled mill about the hospital hallways.

The trip to the hospital to gawk at Kalman nevertheless proves fruitful, as the two amateur investigators meet a haggard-looking older man in the hospital corridor eager to discuss symbols with them. (The audience is meant to consider this man mentally ill or possibly intellectually disabled, as signified by his raving and bad teeth.)

A chance encounter leaves Martin slightly terrified and suspicious

Also, one nurse in particular catches Martin’s eye, and they embark on a relationship even though he had seemed to be interested in Beth. They share at weird sex scene where they make a mess with spaghetti.

Martin comes to the conclusion that the symbols mean a mass murder is imminent, and feeds his ideas to the police. A check of newspaper headlines reveals a field trip for students with intellectual disabilities, and police attempt to intercept their school bus but are thwarted when the bus swerves into a tree and explodes in a giant fireball. Much is made in the media of the catastrophe, and the students are consistently referred to as “children” and “innocents” (though they look to be young adults).

When the driver of the bus is found to be the same man from the hospital corridor, his motives are revealed; he didn’t orchestrate the accident out of some twisted desire to kill, but to obtain a kidney for his daughter who needed a transplant. (Ethical issues about organ transplantation from murder victims, and from the intellectually disabled who presumably have not given informed consent, are not discussed.)

Martin’s theory regarding the symbols collapses, and he realizes that he should have applied Occam’s Razor much earlier in the investigation. He confronts Beth about Mrs. Eagleton’s death, and she reveals that she murdered her mother in order to clear the way for a relationship with him.