Charlie (Martin Freeman) suffers from a little-known condition known as cataplexy. From the start, we learn, “Cataplexy is a neurological disorder that causes sudden attacks of muscle weakness. It is triggered by strong emotions, such as anger, surprise, and fear.” In the case of Charlie, his trigger is intense happiness or joy followed by self-induced slumber.
Jason Winer’s Ode to Joy opens at the wedding of Charlie’s little sister Liza (Shannon Woodward). Charlie is a groom’s man, and the joyous occasion is making it difficult for Charlie to stay conscious. Next to him is his brother Cooper (Jake Lacy) whispering verbal images of human atrocities to keep down his level of joyousness for his sister. His efforts are futile, and the wedding is ruined by a little slapstick. I’m almost certain there was cake involved.
“…a neurological disorder that causes sudden attacks…his trigger is intense happiness or joy…”
Ruining his sister’s wedding is a constant reminder to Charlie that he is not normal. Every day he listens to depressing music on his way to work at the library. He has to avoid anything cute along the way, like babies, dogs, and people in love. One slight misstep and Charlie can faint in the middle of the street…crash…and dead.