The astonishing true-life story of Jean-Dominic Bauby -- a man who held the world in his palm, lost everything to sudden paralysis at 43 years old, and somehow found the strength to rebound -- first touched the world in Bauby's… More The astonishing true-life story of Jean-Dominic Bauby -- a man who held the world in his palm, lost everything to sudden paralysis at 43 years old, and somehow found the strength to rebound -- first touched the world in Bauby's best-selling autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (aka La Scaphandre et la Papillon), then in Jean-Jacques Beineix's half-hour 1997 documentary of Bauby at work, released under the same title, and, ten years after that, in this Cannes-selected docudrama, helmed by Julian Schnabel (Basquiat) and adapted from the memoir by Ronald Harwood (Cromwell). The Schnabel/Harwood picture follows Bauby's story to the letter -- his instantaneous descent from a wealthy and congenial playboy and the editor of French Elle, to a bed-bound, hospitalized stroke victim with an inactive brain stem that made it impossible for him to speak or move a muscle of his body. This prison, as it were, became a kind of "diving bell" for Bauby -- one with no means of escape. With the editor's mind unaffected, his only solace lay in the "butterfly" of his seemingly depthless fantasies and memories. Because of Bauby's physical restriction, he only possessed one channel for communication with the outside world: ocular activity. By moving his eyes and blinking, he not only began to interact again with the world around him, but -- astonishingly -- authored the said memoir via a code used to signify specific letters of the alphabet. In Schnabel's picture, Mathieu Amalric tackles the difficult role of Bauby; the film co-stars Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, and Patrick Chesnais.
Consensus: Breathtaking visuals and dynamic performances make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a powerful biopic.