c o m e a s y o u a r e
7th June 2013
6th June 2013
The story of three young Belgian men traveling across Europe in a minibus to get laid sounds somewhat intriguing but when you add into the mix that one is blind, one is paralysed and one is in a wheelchair then things get really interesting in Geoffrey Enthoven’s latest outing Come As You Are.
In 2008 the BBC made a documentary, For One Night Only, about the experiences of Asta Philpot and his two friends who travelled to a Spanish brothel specially built to accommodate the needs of less able bodied people. It is an extraordinary and extremely moving documentary. And funny. The three guys are funny. The documentary puts a very human face to disabilities. Come As You Are takes this documentary and runs with it creating three amazing and very human men with whom we go on this journey.
Phillip (Robrecht Vanden Thoren) is completely paralysed, Josef (Tom Audenaert) is practically blind and Lars (Gilles de Schryver) is confined to a wheelchair because of a brain tumour that is slowly killing him. The three men are best friends. They wine taste together, laugh together and look out for each other so when Phillip has the idea of going to El Cielo, a brothel in Spain, they of course are in for the ride - however bumpy. Having to do it last minute and away from the eyes of their parents, they enlist a carer who comes in the formidable form of Claude (Isabelle de Hertogh). Perfect except she is a woman and she doesn't speak Flemish, only French. Oops. Undeterred having come so far, they carry on towards the goal through obstacle after obstacle to finally be in control of their own lives, if only for a moment.
Enthoven has directed this film with subtlety and humour, Pierre de Clercq has written a script lacking in any kind of patronising tone. Prejudices of all kinds are examined. At a wine tasting the boys ridicule the party at the next table just because they are Dutch and Claude is taken to task because she doesn't speak Flemish. Prejudice comes in all shapes and sizes. Nor does the script shy away from showing the ugly side of these characters. Phillip can be extremely cruel and Lars also self indulgent and vicious tongued at times. Josef is the softer one with the most amazing laugh. There is a wonderful scene when after drinking too much wine and shunning Claude's help, Josef has to try look after both the boys and gets locked out of Phillip's room. The scene is both funny and terrifying and results in a much needed realisation that they need Claude's help. There are many touching and memorable scenes, 'Hotel Claude' which is basically camping is beautifully played and the sight of the three boys on inflatable loungers supping cocktails is a beautiful one. The sex is down played much more than it is in The Sessions, we see nothing of what goes on in that brothel and I feel this was the right way to play it. Enthoven shows us enough to inform us whilst avoiding voyeurism.
Several times during Come As You Are I forgot about the disabilities of the three boys. Obviously the disabilities are why they are on this journey but it's not simply what this story is about. It isn't just a story about three men with disabilities seeking sex, it's a road trip with three best friends, doing what best friends do – laugh, fight, cry and support each other. The main cast are all excellent. The three men doing a fantastic job of making us believe in their impediments but not making them the main focus, Tom Audenaert in particular stood out as he made it impossible not to want round faced Josef to be happy and Gilles de Schryver has the most cherubic face that means we can't help but love Lars. Thats not to say Thoren is any less as Phillip, he also does a fantastic job with the most dislikable character Phillip. De Hertogh also must get a mention for her mesmerising portrayal of lonely Claude.
Come As You Are is the second film I've seen in 6 months dealing with the 'taboo' subject of disabled people dealing with wanting to have sex. Asta Philpot hates the word 'disabled. He said in the documentary 'it means not switched on, but we are, we are turned on!' The fact that these films are breaking barriers and forcing people to think about the world from another perspective is necessary. I spoke with Robrecht who plays Phillip and he said when he was researching the role he would go to the shops and the thing that bothered him most was the pity. Regardless of what day he was having, the default feeling people had when they saw him in the chair was pity. Hopefully Come As You Are will go some why to showing that people with a disability are still human, not dead yet and are living life to the full AND, shock horror, actually enjoying it. It is a positive and tremendously life affirming film, if you don't come out the cinema happy to be alive then I wash my hands of you.
COME AS YOU ARE OUT ON DVD 7TH OCTOBER
Check out the Come as You Are trailer here.