Parents' Guide to

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Subtitled drama takes paralyzed man's perspective.

Movie PG-13 2007 114 minutes
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Warpy wide angles and smudgy pastels emulate Bauby's disorientation, earning Schnabel directing awards at Cannes and the Golden Globes. While the approach is artful, it's also gimmicky. It can be tedious when the compositions suggest Bauby's subjective view of women's bodies, but the shifts between past and present -- as when Bauby remembers shaving his aging father (Max von Sydow) -- serve up some tender memories, in which the son now recognizes his own present. As he watches his own children playing at the beach, Bauby finally understands how important it is to share feelings with loved ones. Feeling reduced now to a "zombie," denied what he most wants -- sensual pleasures and connections -- he's angry and grateful at once. That gap is the movie's most affecting dilemma, unresolved by aesthetic effects.

Baudy's perspective is rendered through from point-of-view framing and a voice over indicating his feisty sarcasm and occasional self-pity. On meeting speech therapist Henriette (Marie-Josée Croze), his reaction is flirtatious in his own mind. "Am I in heaven?" he muses as the camera lists toward her breasts. She's the one who proposes the dictation system by which he blinks to choose a letter. "My task now," he says, "is to write the motionless travel notes from a castaway on the shores of loneliness."

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