When Philip (Robrecht Vanden Thoren), paralysed from the neck down, decides that he wants to finally have sex, he manages to persuade his two best friends Jozef (Tom Audenaert), who is blind, and Lars (Gilles De Schrijver), terminally ill with a tumour, to travel to Spain to a specialised brothel to suit their needs. However they must do so without letting their parents know of their intentions, so under the guise of a wine tasting trip, they head out on to the road with their driver Claude (Isabelle de Hertogh) on a journey that is bound to change their lives for good.
Given the poignant themes explored in Come As You Are, there is undoubtedly going to be an emotional side to this comedy, however what transpires is a far too unsubtle piece of filmmaking, heading down patently foreseeable paths at times, with an evident attempt to appeal to a broader audience. Despite the inevitability of certain aspects, sometimes it’s what we don’t see that is more effective.
In truth, a more naturalistic approach may have been beneficial, as the melodrama that ensues towards the latter stages provokes an intense rolling of the eyes. A hint of unpredictability would do this title wonders, as you can always read the script as it goes along, feeling one step ahead of the filmmaker, which is never a good thing. A real shame because the first half is wonderful, and then as the story begins to unfold and conclude, the cracks begin to appear, as at times, the audience are subject to a degree of emotional manipulation.
Nonetheless, there are some beautifully crafted and well-handled moments, and points where any such manipulation proves successful, as there is no denying our investment in the lead trio of actors, and such a commitment to their cause is imperative in fully appreciating this movie. The performances are simply incredible, and it’s a real credit to Vanden Thoren, Audenaert and De Schrijver, that you simply can’t tell whether they are genuinely disabled or merely acting.
The reason we feel so close to the roles is because they aren’t painted out to be angels, and despite their conditions you still find yourself getting irritated with them, particularly Philip, who is a royal pain in the backside at times. In a sense, by witnessing his flaws and imperfections it helps us feel closer to the character and thus care more for his wellbeing. On the flip-side, Jozef is just the most adorable cinematic creation. Not to sound patronising, but you just want to cuddle him, give him a really long and heartfelt embrace. You know he’d be up for it too.
Come As You Are finds a nice balance between comedy and drama, comparable in that respect to Untouchable last year. Although cliched and contrived on occasion, this remains touching on the whole, tugging at the heart strings consistently. The viewer is taken on an emotional journey similar to that of our protagonists, and while you’re sitting there watching on, you’ve either got a beaming smile across your face, or you’re wiping tears away from under your eyes, with very little in between.
COME AS YOU ARE is out on DVD from the 7th October