Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Best: Top 10 Special Needs Romances

Over the weekend I watched a movie about a romance between two people, one with a special need.  It made me think about how many movies involve these kind of relationships.

I did find quite a few.  Some of them are problematic like Me Before You (which I did not see) and The Theory of Everything.  Both of these movies depict the disability as stronger than love.

The other problem I tend to find is that people try to "fix" the disability in the film.  By this I don't mean that the other person simply tries to make life better, but that they try to change the unchangeable rather than loving the person as they are.

So here are the top 10 films that feature romances with special needs.

10.  Children of a Lesser God
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What makes this movie work more than anything are the performances.  The story struggles, but William Hurt and Marlee Matlin have great chemistry and charisma.  And when he tries to "fix" her, it causes problems in their relationship.

9.  The Time Traveller's Wife
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This is a science fiction take on loving someone with a disability.  What makes this work, and why it is on the list, is that this couple struggles so much with how to learn to cope with his disorder and they spend a good deal of time with the concern about how this will affect their ability to have children.  While the disease is fictional, the struggles feel real.

8.  50 First Dates
The movie is pure silliness.  But what makes this work is that Sandler's character tries to figure out a way to have a relationship with a girl that forgets everything from the previous day without trying to cure her.  He instead accepts the disability and tries to build his life around her.

7.  Lovely, Still
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Not all of these movies are happy.  Watching Lovely, Still is a devastating experience but one that makes you feel something deeply about the nature of love and marriage and what those commitments mean.

6.  Regarding Henry
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This is a movie about the before and after of a disability's onset.  It is a moving film about how to accept the new normal and rebuild relationships again.

5.  The Notebook
This movie gets a lot of shade for being schmaltzy and bland.  But when you strip everything else away from it, the reason why it works is because you get to see a love that is completely bound up to the other, in sickness and in health till death do us part.

4.  Shadowlands
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One of the beautiful things about this movie is that is shows that sometimes tragedy can force us to confront our feelings.  When Joy is diagnosed with cancer, Jack must face the feelings he has been trying to bury.  And even though he knows he is opening himself to a world of pain, he chooses to love her and be with her for as long as he can.

3.  Jane Wants a Boyfriend

This is a small movie that just came out last year, but it was so delightful and charming.  Jane is a 20 something autistic girl who wants to have a grown up relationship.  When Jack finds her interesting, their chemistry is real.  The best part, for me, is that Jack really delights in the way she acts, talks, and thinks.  He likes her for who she is, not in spite of who she is.  And this was very touching.

2.  Lars and the Real Girl
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Lars has a little mental breakdown at the beginning of the movie and he develops a delusion that a "love doll" he ordered online is actual a real person named Bianca.  What sounds like a lewd premise is actually an incredibly sweet movie.  The entire community decides to play along with Lars to help him through it.  And when a real girl, Margo, begins to get closer to Lars, she accepts him as he is.

1.  A Beautiful Mind
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This might be Ron Howard's best film and it is rightly honored as an amazing work of writing, acting, and directing.  But the most beautiful part about this is the faith that John's wife Alicia has in him.  When she says, "I have to believe something extraordinary is possible," you can feel how she places her life into John's hands.  And the struggles they go through are real.  But the movie teaches us that love is stronger than any struggles here in this world.

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