A road movie. One where a group of friends set off without telling their parents, because they’d try to stop it. And one with a single reason. To lose their virginity. A familiar idea, a journey we’ve been on before. But, unless you’ve seen Belgian film Hasta La Vista (2011), you won’t have been on a trip like this one. It’s called Come As You Are.
Three guys – Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer), Matt (Hayden Szeto) and Mo (Ravi Patel) – decide to take a road trip to Montreal. The reason? They all have disabilities – Scotty is quadriplegic, Matt is paralysed from the waist down and Mo is seriously visually impaired – and none of them have ever had sex. Scotty feels the need the most strongly of the three and discovers a brothel north of the border which caters for people with their specific needs. They hire a van, driven by the world-weary Sam (Gabourey Sidibe), and set off aiming to make their dreams come true. But their protective parents are soon on their trail making it a race to get to their destination – and do the deed.
The subject of the disabled and sex is a tricky one – more so for those of us who are able bodied – but this remake of Hasta La Vista has no truck with embarrassment, taking a refreshingly open and frank approach, one that makes for an enormously endearing film. Nor does it fight shy of giving the attitudes of those without disabilities a knowing dig in the ribs: their encounter with a police officer who consistently uses the wrong terms to describe them is deliciously awkward and bitingly funny. And who’s never found themself in that wince making situation where the correct phrase or words just won’t come into our heads? We’ve all been there ….
Richard Wong directs at a gentle pace and with huge empathy for the characters, a trio that we take to our hearts, even if it’s hard at the outset to like the truculent Scotty, who describes himself as “half man, half machine.” They’re people first and foremost, which means they want to lead their own lives and are capable of being as ridiculous and contradictory as anybody else. And they are. Frequently. The same applies to driver, Sam, whose bumpy road through life means she also has her fair share of problems. They’re just different to those of her passengers.
Heart warming yet never in a sentimental way, Come As You Are is a joyous experience, but one that takes a mischievous pleasure in challenging the audience’s attitudes towards disability. With thoughtful performances from its trio of leads, a no-nonsense attitude to their frustrations and the effect they have on them, it’s something of a partner piece to last year’s sleeper, The Peanut Butter Falcon. Accept its open invitation. You won’t regret it.
Comedy | Cert: tbc | Studio Soho Distribution | Video on demand, 17 July 2020 | Dir. Richard Wong | Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto, Ravi Patel, Gabourey Sidibe.