out of Five
Running time: 80
Engaging, nicely acted and sharply written comedy that imparts an important message while delivering several good laughs.
What's it all about?
Directed by Justin Edgar, Special People stars Dominic Coleman as Jasper, a failed filmmaker who volunteers to teach a movie making class to a group of wheelchair-bound teenagers (David Proud, Jason Maza and Robyn Frampton) at a community centre. However, his patronising attitude soon riles his students and one of them, Scott (Proud), seems to know more about filmmaking than he does.
Meanwhile, Dave (Maza) falls for Anais (Sasha Hardway), a beautiful disabled girl in a neighbouring dance class. Dave persuades Anais to join the group on a location shoot in the countryside, but things quickly go horribly wrong.
The script (co-written by Edgar and Coleman) is packed with witty dialogue and the film often feels like an above-average BBC sitcom – indeed, it's not hard to imagine a successful spin-off with the same characters. The film's strength (and the entire point of the film) is that it forces us to identify with the disabled characters, largely because Jasper is such an ignorant fool.
The performances are excellent: David Proud has great comic timing and a winning way with a one-liner, while Dominic Coleman excels as the David Brent-like Jasper. Sasha Hardway and Jason Maza are equally good and there's strong support from Robyn Frampton as Jess.
Edgar orchestrates several extremely funny scenes, culminating in the hilarious location shooting sequence. The film also makes a subtle but effective point about the way cinema treats disabled actors (and, by extension, character).
That said, the plot takes an uncomfortable turn towards the end that stretches credibility and ultimately, doesn't quite work. In addition, the film occasionally betrays its origins as a short film, in that meanders a little in the final act.
In short, Special People is an engaging, superbly acted and frequently funny British comedy that delivers an important message without resorting to sentimentality or the usual cliches. Recommended.