Could a special needs roadtrip movie out of Belgium possibly be funny, entertaining, and heartfelt? Yes, yes and yes.
If you want to watch ridiculous caricatures of those confined to wheel chairs watch Glee, if you want to watch interesting characters confined to wheel chairs watch Come as You Are.
While the story of three homely guys trying to lose their virginity isn’t exactly new or original, the way it’s told here is certainly unique; kind of like a Hangover for the indie set.
This is a road comedy that works thanks to three convincing, truthful performances by its leads. Lars (Geofrrey Enthoven, who also directs) suffers from a terminal illness, and wants to have sex before dying. Paraplegic Jozef (Robrecht Vanden Thoren) fantasizes while watching women jog on the beach. Philip (Tom Audenaert) is virtually blind, requiring a magnifying glass and plenty of concentration to read anything.
Against their parents’ wishes the three friends decide to visit a Spanish brothel that caters to people “like us.” In an impressive supporting role, Isabelle de Hertogh ends up as their on-the-go caregiver and driver. Fresh out of jail, she’s got a hard-love edge to her, and many of the laughs come mid-way in the film as the four trek across the country side in a van, singing, yelling, and sharing their innermost fears and desires.
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What I especially like about this film is that it doesn’t sugarcoat or Disney-fie these characters. Jozef is angry at the world, and for whatever the reason lashes out at those around him, even as his friends and family try to help. And, in one scene which could be a homage to Sideways, Lars hurls insults at a nearby group of wine tasters simply because they are Dutch. As a result, these searching souls seem very real, painfully human.
There’s a predictability to the story. We’ve been down this road before. But thankfully the dialog, characters and premises are so fresh that it’s a journey well worth our time.
Note: this film plays Cinequest. If you’re in Silicon Valley be sure to check out the 22nd version of the indie fest that draws close to 100,000 film-lovers to San Jose.
3.5 out of 5 stars (Sweet Stuff)
Directed by Geoffrey Enthoven
Starring Robrecht Vanden Thoren, Gilles De Schryver, Tom Audenaert, Isabelle De Hertogh
Language: Dutch, French, Spanish (w/English subtitles)
Belgium, comedy, 108 min.