Inside I’m dancing

Star rating: 5/5.

Directed by Damien O’Donnell. On general release from 15 October.

When portraying disability, film-makers often tread an unsteady path between a sentimentalised worthiness and the plain patronising, writes Graham Hopkins. Refreshingly, this very funny film from the producers of Billy Elliot and the director of East is East is not about disability, it’s about freedom, friendship and dreams; the two leading characters just happen to be in wheelchairs.

The compliantly grateful Michael (Steven Robertson), whose voice is so unintelligible to staff that he communicates by pointing at letters, lives at Carrigmore residential care home (“A special home for special people”). Enter Rory (James McAvoy) – a rebel with a coarse sense of humour and an attitude as spiky as his hair: “I have two workable fingers – which are good enough for self-propulsion and self-abuse” he declares by way of introduction.

With Rory able to understand what Michael says (“I used to sit next to someone in class who made you sound like Laurence Olivier”), they both move out into independent living. The interviews for their personal assistant, which have echoes from the band auditions in The Commitments, provide the film’s best sequence. They put their faith in Siobh n (Romola Garai) – a good looking young woman without qualification or experience – who proves to be a catalyst in their relationship. Michael falls in love with her despite Rory’s continuing cruel advice. “Park-keepers don’t shag armadillos,” he concludes.

Towards the end, the film propels itself dangerously close to mawkishness, but forgivably so. We can also forgive the comic book authoritarian home, and the implausible independent living panel, and that personal care amounts to being soaped down in the shower. But the gritty realism here is in the friendship of two men whose bodies don’t quite work properly. A free-wheeling treat.

Inside I’m Dancing is previewing nationwide on Tuesday 28 September. We have five pairs of free tickets for each of the following screenings at Vue cinemas (all showing at 6.30pm): Glasgow Hamilton; Edinburgh; Leeds; Manchester; Bolton; Bristol Cribbs; Leicester; Portsmouth; Plymouth; Basingstoke; Fulham; Birmingham; York; Sheffield; and Croydon Purley Way. Plus UGCs at Boldon, Chester and Liverpool. If you would like to attend one of the above please e-mail First come, first served.

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