These fifteen heart-wrenching films depicting visually impaired people are both heartwarming and frightening.
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The way movies have depicted various kinds of disabilities ranges from accurate to downright offensive. In particular, portraying blindness in an offensive manner has been relatively unrestricted in terms of repercussions or backlash. Why, then? People who are visually impaired face daily hardships in a world that does not accommodate them. So, why do movies depict blind people in such a funny and inaccurate way? Movies that depict blindness in an accurate and respectful manner are few and far between; however, there are a few excellent examples out there.
Films that accurately (or at least positively) depict people who are visually impaired, films that do not mock or perpetuate harmful stereotypes about those people, and, of course, a compelling plot are all things we’re looking for. Fantasy and horror films depict blindness with some implausible plots, but they also portray blind people as strong and capable.
If you don’t mind a few spoilers, proceed with care.
Look no further than these ten cinematic depictions of blindness.
1. Butterflies Are Free (1972)
This is the best bed I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of beds! Goldie, you’re such a sweetheart.
A young blind man named Don (Edward Albert) moves into his own apartment against his mother’s overprotectiveness. Butterflies Are Free follows this scenario. During his time at the building, he makes friends with Jill, an eccentric young woman who lives next door (Goldie Hawn).
Despite being informed by his mother that he wouldn’t be able to live his life the way he wanted to, Don was brave enough to live it the way he wanted to. Jill was a flaky mess, and Don proved to be the brave, responsible, and enduring one in their relationship. Jill’s persona was sexualized around a man who couldn’t see her in a way that made the audience feel like voyeurs. However, the film’s heart is nice, and it is absolutely entertaining in this respect.. Additionally, there are many memorable lines. “Do you identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual?” “No, I’m simply completely oblivious.”
2. At First Sight (1999)
Oliver Sacks, a well-known British neurologist, penned a number of groundbreaking essays and books that pushed the boundaries of knowledge. An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks, which inspired the film At First Sight, contains an article titled “To See and Not See,” written by Sacks. Shirl Jennings, one of the few people in the world who have regained their sight after a lifetime of blindness, was also a source of inspiration for the film.
In At First Sight, we follow the story of Virgil, a blind man who falls in love with Amy (a young Val Kilmer in his prime). We learn about Virgil’s difficult upbringing in the film, including his father’s abandonment and his overprotective sister’s confinement, throughout the course of the story. With his sight restored thanks to an exciting procedure, Virgil struggles to adjust to his newfound ability to perceive things. This is different from the tear-jerking “blind but now I see” narrative that is common in films about the blind. In the wake of his surgery, Virgil’s vision begins to fail once more. Virgil spent the most of the film dealing with individuals who tried to cure his blindness rather than love him as he was, and the film succeeded in depicting it as an awful way to be an ally.
3. Love and Honor (2006)
Part of the samurai trilogy by Yoji Yamada that also includes Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade, this Japanese historical drama was originally called as Bushi no ichibun.
He is a warrior who lives with his faithful and devoted wife, Kayo. To support his ambitions of opening his own school for the underprivileged, he is employed by an influential nobleman who uses him as a food taster. Shinnojo becomes ill and finally loses his sight as a result of his condition after he was poisoned at work. An affluent chief duty officer offers assistance to Kayo, who is worried about the future of her and her husband. However, the assistance comes at a high cost, which was common for women at the time. Shinnojo tries to keep his wife’s honor intact and prove his worth despite his infirmity.
Being disabled in an honor-based community is the subject of an extraordinarily moving memoir, Love and Honor. Beautiful, but yet heartbreaking, is the ending. An admirable vision handicapped character, Shinnojo was very human and furious about his disability, but eventually worked with what his body could supply to save his family from death.
4. Blindsight (2006)
Despite being one of the few documentaries on this list, Blindsight has earned a spot on this list for its honest and compelling portrayal of the daily struggles of blind and disabled people around.
It’s a harrowing adventure for six blind Tibetan youths who set out on the 23,000-foot Lhakpa Ri mountain. Blind social worker Sabriye Tenberken and legendary mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer are among the educators accompanying the group on their ascent of Mount Everest. More importantly, the children’s families are in turmoil as well. Many of these young people are shunned by their families, despised by their neighbors, and disgraced by Buddhists of all stripes for their supposed sins.
In this film, the youngsters narrate their own tale, and they shine brightly. This documentary is direct and reasonably unbiased. Blindsight was the recipient of a slew of honors, and they were all well-deserved. See if you haven’t already seen this moving film.
5. The Masseurs and a Woman (1938)
In the mood for old-school cinema? Check out Anma to Onna (also known as The Masseurs and the Woman).
The narrative of blind masseur Toku is told in this Japanese black-and-white drama. Toku and his friend Fuku set off on a mountain path to a community of inns in search of job at the opening of the film. As soon as Toku smells Michiko, he knows she is from Tokyo because of her scent. In spite of this, the video fulfills its aim by showing how tough Toku’s life can be if you are blind and are rejected by society, which is the case here. Distraught by the way Toku’s character was perceived and treated by others. The picture, despite its heartbreaking subject matter, is both peaceful and beautiful to look at. The comedy and drama in Anma to Onna has a great old-timey feel to it that appeals to viewers of all ages. The film is easy to understand and worth seeing at least once.
6. Proof (1991)
Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe, both in their early careers, star in this hilarious Australian comedy. During the course of Proof, we get to know Martin (Weaving), a blind photographer who has trust issues due to the fact that his mother exaggerated what he was able to see. Martin’s life is forever changed by this one little detail, which causes him to live a life of bitter resentment and a deep dislike of being pitied. Rearranging his furnishings is also a way for her to vent her unrequited love for him, and he enjoys rebuffing her advances. The two eventually become buddies after Martin meets Andy (Crowe).
Proof depicts how oppressed people get traumatized by the aggressions they confront on a daily basis, sometimes to the point where they believe that no one can be trusted. In the end, it’s a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful film.
7. A Patch of Blue (1965)
A young black man named Gordon (Sidney Poitier) and a white blind woman named Selina (Elizabeth Hartman) fall in love in a racially divided America in this American drama directed by Guy Green. Race and ableism are examined through the lens of “love is blind,” not as a flowery dismissing narrative that misses the mark but as a word that is unrealistic and nonconstructive in nature. As a result, Selina isn’t depicted as an idealistic, devout white woman. As a crippled woman, Selina’s story focuses heavily on her personal hardships, and the likelihood of her relationship with Gordon becoming a marriage is questioned right up until the end. The people closest to her take advantage of her; she has been sexually assaulted; and she has no formal training. As a black man in a divided white America, Gordon has to deal with racial prejudice, but he’s also realistic about his connection with Selina. Getting killed could be the end result if this happens to him.
In addition to being one of Sidney Poitier’s best-known pictures, A Patch of Blue helped establish Poitier’s career.
8. Life on a String (1991)
Shi Tiesheng wrote the novel that inspired this dramatic narrative of a blind sanxian player and his apprentice. As a child, the sanxian player Old Master was told by his own master that the remedy for his blindness would be revealed once he had broken a thousand strings on his instrument. The thousandth string has snapped after sixty years. If he had just cracked the sanxian open, there would have been no drama.
Life on a String is understated and relatable, with a human quality throughout. Chinese voices and instruments are showcased in the film’s soundtrack, which is a testimony to both old and new. As a striking depiction of vision impairment, it is also a terrific film with themes of compassion and understanding. The film ends with an elderly man reminiscing about a long life of love, joy, grief, and disappointment that he has experienced. The song is one of the best things to come out of a movie ever.
9. The Eye (2002)
This Singaporean-Hong Kong horror film, also known as Gin Gwai, was a first of its kind at the time. Several pointless sequels followed, as did an Indian remake and a Western version in 2008, both of which featured Jessica Alba. According to what I’ve read, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Blind violinist Mun is given the chance to have a cornea transplant in the film after finally finding a donor. After Mun recovers from the surgery, things go awry quickly. As she gains her sight, she begins to see ominous figures that seem to foretell her own demise. In the hospital, she sees one of these figures hovering over a patient, and the following day, she learns that the patient has died.
Despite his best efforts, her psychologist still feels that she is simply getting used to her new sense. When Mun received her new eyes, she was given a mysterious donor who gave her the visions she now sees.
While Mun’s blindness was not a major focus of the film, it was nevertheless enjoyable and spooky. Before watching the American remake, see the original film, as the quality tends to be greater.
10. The Miracle Worker (1962)
This film, based on the true story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, is frequently cited as one of the best films from the 1960s. For the most part, this drama was historically accurate and provided an intimate glimpse into the lives of two of the most well-known blind people in history. The film depicted racist stereotypes as well as scenes of child abuse. Regardless, the picture was an immediate critical triumph and won two Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
An impatient young Helen Keller, who is both blind and deaf, takes her frustrations out on people around her in the book The Miracle Worker. Her parents contacted the Perkins School for the Blind in a desperate attempt to help their child. Anne Sullivan is brought to Keller to teach her how to communicate and to help her improve her language skills.
Although The Miracle Worker was not a perfect picture of life for children with disabilities, it was at least a compelling depiction of how their families treat them.