Uneasy Riders (Nationale 7)

René is paraplegic and lives in a local-authority home. Just 50 years old, he rages at the limitations of institutional life: its appalling wallpaper, the staff who enforce the rules, the passivity of his co-residents. On his wall is a totemic portrait of Karl Marx. Living independently he was involved in politics; now, locked in bitterness, he’s contemptuous, openly insulting, deeply unhappy – and incandescent with sexual frustration. That is until Julie, a new worker at the home, steps into his life.

Julie does what she can for him. She has the self-confidence not to be provoked, the humanity to see beyond his anger. She agrees he has the right – if not the independent means – to a sexual life and René wants sex with a prostitute. When they try official channels – and fail – Julie finds herself searching, with measuring tape in hand, the lay-bys of the Nationale 7 for a prostitute willing to take a disabled client and with a trailer door wide enough for a wheelchair.

*Uneasy Riders* owes something to both _One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest_ and _WR: Mysteries of the Orgasm_ but its style is its own. Shot digitally, its mobile camera suggests the hard-won mobility and independence of the residents – some played by non-professionals living at the home where it was shot. Olivier Gourmet is electrifying as René. Nadia Kaci plays Julie with lightness but real mettle. *Uneasy Riders* tackles sentimentalities about disability head-on, is bolshie and deadly serious, but it resonates with wonderful energy, humour and a sense of life worth living.

mag cover This article is from the April 2001 issue of New Internationalist.
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