We like to think we’re invincible, but the truth is the human body, for all the damage it can take, can be extremely fragile. One fall, a twist in the wrong direction, a car accident, even just walking down the street when a tree falls on you, can completely change the way your body functions for the rest of your life. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that as of 2018, 17,700 people suffer spinal cord injuries each year, about a third of which result in complete paraplegia. When pro mountain bike racer Paul Basagoitia fell during a competition and lost feeling in his legs, his life was sent down a path that nobody could ever prepare for. Director Fernando Villena documents his journey from bedridden to recovery in Any One Of Us.
Basagoitia lived for the two wheels. Bicycling was his passion, especially off-road racing with as many obstacles as possible. He was one of the best in the country, winning award after award in national competitions. With one wrong move, however, all of that was gone and he found himself unable to get out of bed, use the bathroom or get anywhere by himself. With nothing but willpower and the support of his fiancée, he pushed himself through two years through frustration, agony, and depression to get to a point where he could walk with only one cane and drive a car on his own. Fortunately, his injury allowed him to recuperate this much, though it’s uncertain whether he will ever get on a bike again.
“…ignorant people who see you as half a person and say the most awkward, idiotic things because they think they know everything…”
Villena tells this story with candid intimacy. We are there when Basagoitia has to slide a tube up his penis to urinate. We’re there when it all gets overwhelming and he wants to give up and we see his hope when an experimental stem cell treatment becomes his focus. We feel his emotions range from anger to depression to acceptance to love as he goes down this road and we want the best for him because he is so unashamedly human.
Adding to his story are the testimonials of many other wheelchair-bound people, whose experiences mirror Basagoitia’s story. Every phase of his recovery has been felt by one of them and, through their honesty, we get a better idea of what’s going on in his head. It seems to come down to one word: Frustration. Frustrated that your recovery isn’t happening as quickly as you would like. Frustrated that every little part of your life has to be so damned complicated and difficult when all you want to do is get from one side of your home to the other. Frustrated by ignorant people who see you as half a person and say the most awkward, idiotic things because they think they know everything about your situation. Frustrated that you remember what it was like to just get up and go anywhere but now you have to worry about whether there’s a ramp and an elevator everywhere you go.
Until we find ourselves in the same situation, we’ll never fully understand what it means to lose the function in our legs and arms. That said, Fernando Villena has made it easier for us to empathize with people who suffer from spinal cord injuries and only want to go about their lives without the constant reminder that they’re different. It’s tough being tied to a wheelchair and Any One Of Us does an excellent job of making this abundantly clear.
Any One Of Us (2019) Directed by Fernando Villena. Starring Paul Basagoitia.
8 out of 10 stars