Yesterday I watched the festive rom-com ‘Christmas Ever After’. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of romance films, not a fan of Christmas and certainly not a fan of the combination of the two! However, I had heard that this was a film starring an actor who uses a wheelchair, playing a part that hadn’t been written specifically for a character who uses a wheelchair. Oh. My. Goodness.
Although watching the film didn’t suddenly make me want to cover myself in tinsel, there were several things that I found delightful about Christmas Ever After.
But wait, she’s disabled?
The main character, Izzi, wasn’t written to be a wheelchair user, but also wasn’t written not to be. As far as I know, this is unprecedented in mainstream film. This implies that the actress playing the main character, Ali Stroker, was simply the best person for the job. Being an actress who is a wheelchair user didn’t necessarily give her an advantage but also didn’t exclude her.
Unless I’m mistaken, that smells a lot like a Christmassy whiff of equality. Delicious!
Pushing through the snow
The film felt like a semi-realistic portrayal of someone with a disability (in the context of a shiny, happy, festive rom-com at least, where very little can be considered ‘realistic’!). I rejoiced in the way Izzi was shown to be independent, successful in her career, kind and helpful, but still had an unhealthy obsession with Christmas and unrealistic expectations in love. She casually said things like “I’m going for a push, want to come?”.
I also particularly enjoyed how Izzi’s wheelchair was never hidden. Not only was it plain to see in the shots of Izzi in action, but it was also visible in the passenger seat of her car. The car she was driving, the car that was adapted for her use. It didn’t feel as if the film was ever trying to hide the character’s disability, but neither was it making it into a plot point.
Disability as an advantage
Slight spoiler warning here (although it’s hard to expect anything else from a rom-com), Izzi gets the guy. But, in part, she gets the guy because of her disability. She has an advantage over another woman who is, as far as I know, not disabled. This is so wonderfully done, and so remarkable that I could almost have a little cry. The film shows that in life, the experience of facing tough and unusual challenges, no matter what shape they are, gives you more value, not less.
My ‘Christmas wish’ is that many more films starring disabled actors will be made in the future, where disability is sometimes incidental to the plot.
Sometimes, being disabled is just a thing.
You can watch Christmas Ever After on My5 (UK), available until 6th Jan 2021. Frustratingly there are no captions or audio description available here…
Please consider contacting My5 at email@example.com to ask them to include these features for all their programmes.
Photo Credit: © 2020 Lifetime