By Admin | February 5, 2005

“Rory O’Shea Was Here” is a buddy picture about two wheelchair-bound characters suffering from muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. By most accounts, such a thing is damn near impossible to dislike, or even respectfully pan. So, sensitivities firmly in check, I can safely report that “Rory O’Shea” is a harmless little charmer with a uniformly fine cast, played by the numbers for full tear-jerking effect. Of course, we’ve seen it all before: rebel outsider strikes up unlikely friendship with lost soul, in the process drawing lost soul out of shell and finding himself. The screenplay is near deadly in its dull precision, but ultimately spared of suckiness by its generous dollop of humanity.

Rory O’Shea is the new guy at Dublin’s Carrigmore Residential Home, a “special home for special people.” Rory has spiky hair, likes loud music, and has a thing for “big boobs”. From the moment he arrives, Rory stands out as trouble in the uptight, boring home. Oh yeah, Rory also has cerebral palsy, which limits his range of human expression to clear speech and two working fingers on his right hand. Upon his arrival at the home, Rory meets Michael O’Connelly, a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy. The two, of course, immediately strike up an Unlikely Friendship, their special bond being that Rory is the only one that can actually comprehend Michael’s mangled speech. As dictates the genre, Rory is soon “corrupting” Michael by taking him clubbing and getting him thoroughly sauced. Rory even gets Michael some kissing action via a reluctant bar hottie.

So goes life at Carrigmore, with Rory causing trouble and Michael falling in line, until the two pals persuade a panel for Independent Living that they are fit to live on their own. After an awkward exchange with Michael’s negligent father, a big shot judge with some influence, this oddest of couples scores the perfect first floor, accessible apartment. The only thing missing for the two is an assistant to help them with all the things they need help with, no small task. After a long and painful search for an assistant, they finally strike gold in Siobhan (Romola Garai), an insanely cute supermarket shelf stocker. So what she has zero experience, she sure looks super fly in that sweater!

Blond hottie bathing and tucking in two h***y dudes? You can probably guess where this is headed. No, not that (different film completely), but jealousy and heartbreak, as Michael falls hopelessly, pathetically in love with Siobhan and Rory begins to act out his colossal frustrations. Things get worse before they get better for this unlikely threesome, who grow and learn in ways they never expected.

Despite its predictable plot turns, “Rory O’Shea” is a film you actually recommend to the folks (how convenient now with Netflix!) and everyone goes home happy, none the wiser for having been manipulated yet again. Who knows, some may even shed a tear or two. Director Damien O’Donnell (“East is East”) and screenwriter Jeffrey Caine elevate potential after-school special material into a thoughtful and occasionally quite funny examination of friendship, suffering, and self-discovery. For my money though, the real pleasure of “Rory O’Shea” is its superb cast of mostly unknowns, particularly Romola Garai, a real find (and a new personal obsession). As the severely challenged Michael, James McAvoy turns in an astounding performance rich in nuance and never demeaning. Steven Robertson, in the less showy role of Rory, nonetheless delivers an equally impressive turn. Together, the two actors display a natural chemistry that without, this sweet-natured dramedy fails completely.

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