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these are letters...they make up words...which make up books...so let's get a-writin'

these are letters...they make up words...which make up books...so let's get a-writin'


Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze

Jean-Dominique: Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of near misses.  The women that I was unable to love…the chances that I failed to seize…moments of joy I allowed to drift away…erase…whose result I knew beforehand, but failed to bet on the winner.  Had I been blind and deaf…or did it take the harsh light of disaster for me to find my true nature?

Jean-Dominique Bauby (Amalric) suffers a stroke and loses all movement in his body, except for his left eye.  A speech therapist (Croze) develops a method of communication via blinking, which Bauby uses to dictate a book about his life.

This movie is based on the true story of the editor of Elle magazine, who did in fact write a book through the process of dictating it by blinking.  It’s told in a very interesting visual style, mostly from Bauby’s point of view, in a disjointed, almost dreamlike, way.  We hear Bauby’s very lucid internal thoughts, and see firsthand the frustration of trying to learn this new, rudimentary communication system.  Speaking of which, be prepared for many shots of characters looking at the camera, repeating a sequence of letters over and over again.  They read the list of letters until he blinks, indicating that’s the first letter of a word, then they repeat the process for the rest of the word.  It’s easier to handle than it sounds, as usually it’s one of the lovely women in the film reading off the letters.

While the visuals, and the overall feel of the film, are great, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disconnected from all of the characters.  This was a surprise, considering we see most of the movie from Bauby’s point of view.  I wanted to see more of his past, when he was not truly living his life fully, so that this internal change he experiences would seem more profound.  We only get glimpses of it, and that was disappointing.  I also would have liked to see a little more about the supporting characters who stay by his side and help him.  I wasn’t always sure who everyone was and how they fit into his life.

Despite all of that, it’s a fascinating movie – to look at especially – with some moving, thought-provoking scenes.  Though I think it would have been a lot more moving with more character background provided as contrast to where the characters end up.

10 – 2 for some lack of character development – .5 for a few bits of clunky dialogue + .2 for great visuals = 7.7