6 out of 10
Release date: 26th October 2016
Director: Bill Clark
cast: Joanne Froggatt, Tom Riley, Michele Dotrice, Ellie Copping, Simon Bamford, David Carr and Phoebe Nicholls
Writer: Bill Clark
I dread watching films like this. Not because I end up a sobbing wreck. It’s just as a film, it’s a troubling medium, the ‘disease-showcase’ movie. Like sports movies they are about human endurance and run along a set path. A good, hardworking person (never a lolly-gagging lazy turd who’s bad to their friends or family) who gets struck down by a life-changing condition. Often these films serve as an education, and can be involving and moving like Still Alice, or crass, terrible and maudlin like The C Word. Starfish ticks just about every box but it’s lightness of touch and a striking central performance from Joanne Froggatt (DOWNTON ABBEY) makes sure that this isn’t written off as an off-key Hallmark Channel hankie-fest.
Based on the true story of Tom Ray (TOM RILEY – DA VINCI’S DEMONS) is struck down with sepsis one day. A staggering 1 in 10 people survive an attack, and those that do have to live with horrific injuries including limb-loss. This film tells the story of Tom, his wife Nicola (FROGGATT) and his young family. After surviving an attack, he returns home and the drama tells of how they all struggle and then ultimately cope together with such a horrifying change. The impact on seemingly normal lives is colossal. Tom Riley has the more difficult role – he is in turn depressed, confused, self-loathing, hateful to his loved ones, and a changed man. As the funds run out and their new way of life takes shape you begin to invest more in the situation.
Well made, and well-acted, it does walk a well-worn path and it’s in the quieter moments when this film wins points. When Tom sees the extent of his amputation, and his disfigured face, the filmmakers really send you on that journey of crushing wonderment. There are several positive scenes that recur throughout the film. The titular starfish shows up from time to time to teach our hero to be strong and about the mythical possibility that his limbs could grow back – just like a starfish. A late confrontation bewtween Tom and Nicola also push this ahead of most ‘disease-of-the-week’ TV specials. The actors effortlessly convincing as a married couple on the brink of burn out. The ending is filled with hope, yet there are no miracles. The message isacceptance, and that the sufferer isn’t the only one afflicted when a deadly disease strikes you down out of the blue.
6 out of 10 – Above average ‘Life vs Disease’ film, dealt with sensitively and convincingly. A difficult job considering these films come with a ready made plot. A superior granny special
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Joanne Froggatt: Mary Shelley, Bob The Builder (voice) (TV), A Street Cat Named Bob, Downton Abbey (TV), Still Life, Filth, UWantMe2KillHim?, In Our Name, Coronation Street (TV)
- Tom Riley: Kill Your Friends, Da Vinci’s Demons (TV), I Want Candy
- Michele Dotrice: Captain Jack, Vanity Fair (1998) (TV), Bramwell (TV), Some Mother’s Do Have ‘Em (TV), The Blood On Satan’s Claw, And Soon The Darkness, Middlemarch (1968) (TV), The Witches (1966)
- Simon Bamford: Dead of the Nite, Book of Blood, Nightbreed, Hell Raiser 2, Hell Raiser
- Phoebe Nicholls: Chubby Funny, Transformers 5, Fortitude (TV), Downton Abbey (TV), Shackleton (TV), Fairy Tale, Maurice, The Missionary, Brideshead Revisited (TV), The Elephant Man, Women In Love