Directed by Damien O'Donnell, starring James McAvoy, Steven Robertson, Romola Garai, Brenda Fricker and Gerard McSorley.
Having made his feature debut with 'East is East', a film about the clash of cultures within a Muslim Pakistani family in Manchester, and followed that up with a gentle celebration of nerdish English culture in 'Heartlands', Dublin-born director Damien O'Donnell returns to Ireland for 'Inside I'm Dancing'.
It's essentially a buddy story - two young men who are direct opposites meet, become friends, move in together and fall for the same girl - but the difference in this case is that both men are disabled. Michael Connolly (Robertson) has severe cerebral palsy. In his early twenties, he has lived in residential care all his life as his successful lawyer father (McSorley) refuses to acknowledge his existence. His dull existence in the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled (motto: "a special home for special people") is disrupted and enlivened by the arrival of Rory O'Shea (McAvoy), also wheelchair-bound, but intent on living life to the best of his ability - and beyond. Whether it's playing The Avalanches at full blast in the middle of the night or getting Michael to spike his hair with gel when the nursing staff don't have the time for such fripperies, Rory is rebellion personified - think McMurphy in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' - and he brings Michael along for the ride.
The disabled Odd Couple manage to convince the authorities to give them a personal living allowance so that they can get away from Carrigmore and live independently. With a flat renovated to accommodate their wheelchairs they hire an inexperienced but gorgeous girl, Siobhán (Garai), as their carer and for a brief while freedom is all about pot noodles and champagne through a straw. Rory describes it as "cripple heaven" but their happy ménage-à-trois doesn't last for long.
There might not be as much comedy here as in 'East is East' but there's still a great deal of humanity and Damien O'Donnell's un-patronising affection for his characters comes through every step of the way. All three leads are entirely convincing. James McAvoy does a good job of making the often unlikable Rory an empathetic character, Steven Robertson's wide-eyed, 'My Left Foot'-type performance leaves little to be desired and Romola Garai as the young woman out of her depth proves that her turn in 'I Capture the Castle' wasn't just a once-off.
The script, however, is what lets this film down. Too many caricatures, particularly of people in authority, and not enough focus makes it difficult to know exactly where 'Inside I'm Dancing' is going, but O'Donnell manages to get to the end without things becoming too mawkish. Although flawed, it is not fatally so and 'Inside I'm Dancing' is an affectionate and big-hearted film.