The Theory Of Flight Review

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Teaming a character who is physically disabled with one who is psychologically damaged is not original, but it’s dramatically strong and attractively developed in this British comedy drama.

Failed artist and lover Richard (Branagh) exits the zone marked ‘eccentric’ into clearcut derangement when he creates a public nuisance with a spectacularly daft stunt. Such is the state of the social services that instead of getting therapy, he is sentenced to 120 hours of community service as part-time carer to Jane (Bonham Carter), who is nearing the terminal stage of motor neurone disease.

Jane is wheelchair-bound and speech-impaired, but she’s a spirited and funny smart-arse who wants some excitement.Most of all, she wants to lose her virginity, romantically, just like in the movies. Unable to ‘oblige’, Richard, lifted out of himself by his friend’s more tangible difficulties, conceives a desperate scheme to finance Jane’s costly dream date with a high-class gigolo.

What so easily could have been worthy-but-dull or, worse, worthy-but-embarrassing, succeeds in being amusing and affecting because for the most part it disdains sentimentality. Bonham Carter, whose father has been confined to a wheelchair for many years, knows what she’s about here and never overplays her hand or invites pity. Branagh does well, too, in making the emotionally crippled Richard more endearing than the cliché of the character suggests.

The plot does get hectic juggling its crime caper/sexual misadventure balls with the flight metaphor for ‘Getting one’s life off the ground’ that is central to the pair’s relationship (Richard is building an airplane out of junk), but any film that starts off well and manages to end up on a rationally satisfying but life-affirming note is way ahead of the game.