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Movies with Characters with Learning Disabilities: Touching!

Paola_Bassanese_itcher_contributorMovies with characters with learning disabilities may be uncomfortable viewing sometimes, but at other times that can have that “feel good factor” too. Titles like The Mighty spring to mind – yes, it’s a rose-tinted story with the whole Hollywood treatment, but it is refreshingly different from traditional blockbusters.
~ Paola Bassanese

Movies with Characters That Have Learning Disabilities

There’s an excellent video guide on movies with characters that have learning disabilities:

It lists different conditions including ADHD and dyslexia, and some conditions are not categorised as learning disabilities as such, but the good thing about this video is that it looks at a variety of interesting international movies. Two titles that really jumped out were Thumbsucker starring Tilda Swinton and Adam, a movie about Asberger’s syndrome.

It is quite difficult to define and describe what a learning disability is.

Learning disabilities may or may not be related to other disorders like autism. A learning disability limits the understanding of complex information in an individual. Someone with a learning disability may find it difficult to live independently.

A film showing how this disability can affect an individual but also how you can cope with it is the independent title A Real Home A Real Life.

‘Marvellous’ (Julian Farino, 2014)

Marvellous is a film about the true story of Neil Baldwin ( played by Toby Jones), a much-loved man from Newcastle-under-Lyme who never took “no” for an answer and charmed his way into a number of disparate jobs like being a clown in a circus, a University advisor and a kit assistant for Stoke City footballers.

This film manages to portray Neil without making us feel sorry for him, but rather it is an inspirational and eye-opening story.

You may feel like trying your luck at different jobs and approaching seemingly unapproachable high profile people after watching this film.

‘The Mighty’ (Peter Chelsom, 1998)

The Mighty has “feel good movie” written all over it. It’s very Hollywood, so you have big names like Sharon Stone to guarantee mass appeal, but the topic is very niche.

Two boys form an unlikely friendship: one, Kevin, has a rare condition called Morquio’s syndrome which affects him physically while the other, Max, has a learning disability and Kevin helps him get up to speed with his reading.

This is a movie for the whole family that avoids upsetting and challenging the audience, but it’s still worth watching for the great performances from the young leads.

‘In Her Shoes’ (Curtis Hanson, 2005)

Cameron Diaz plays Maggie, the irresponsible and undependable party girl – the opposite of her sister Rose (Toni Collette).

This is your typical Hollywood fare – not too upsetting, not too deep – but it does feature dyslexia which is categorised as a learning difficulty.

I decided to include it because it also has Shirley MacLaine, one of my favourite actresses.

‘Café de Flore’ (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2011)

This last movie features two children with Down Syndrome: although learning disabilities and Down Syndrome are not the same thing, people with Down Syndrome may have various degrees of learning difficulties.

There are two stories/love triangles running in parallel: in one, Vanessa Paradis is Jacqueline, a single mother with a son with Down Syndrome; in the other, Kevin Parent is Antoine, a successful divorced DJ with a young and beautiful girlfriend.

The relationship between Jacqueline and her son Laurent becomes complicated when he becomes lovestruck with a little girl, Véronique, who also has Down Syndrome.

This film has many improbable moments and you have to suspend disbelief at times; however, it treats disability with sensitivity.


Your Views

This was just a short list of movies with characters with learning disabilities but I am sure I have missed a few titles: would you like to help me fill this list with more movies?

Have you watched a movie that really inspired you or made you more aware of learning disabilities?

Please have your say in the comments.

I am Paola Bassanese, and I love twitter – I think in slogans! I am a contributing author at itcher mag covering mainly quirky movies that I like and that I hope you′ll like too. [n-e-x-t] I have written a few books including The Foraging Home Cook, and also write about health and lifestyle for the Huffington Post. I consider myself to be a Londoner even though I was born in Italy. I love 80s music and foreign language films, but I also enjoy going to the opera and ballet.
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