Yesterday I decided that I really ought to watch the film “Quid Pro Quo”, a.k.a. the BIID film. I’ve known about it pretty much since I first started researching BIID, but so far I had not thought to watch it.
Overall I’d say that it was a good film. Bearing in mind that this is 2008 that we’re talking about, it gives a surprisingly accurate representation of BIID, considering the usual mis-portrayals that the media somehow manage to come out regarding even things as common as blindness. Although it focuses specifically on the paralysis variant of BIID, one could easily apply the ideas suggested to any other variant.
On the other hand, the plot had numerous holes in it and was not exactly consistent, generally falling apart in places and the end of the film could quite easily be from a different story to the beginning – although that might have been the intention. The general tone is that of a drama with a bit of a thriller thrown in in places, and the plot and portrayal thereof also has quite a heavy psychological element.
As someone with BIID, I’d say that the film hit home with me in a lot of places, despite me personally having the less-common blindness variant of BIID, and I could frequently identify with the characters. I also found that the depicted relationships between the paralysed protagonist and the “wannabes” was very close to the real-life experiences of people with BIID that I have read about. Nevertheless I found the “creepy” aspect a bit offputting in the beginning and slightly offensive, although this softened as I got further into the film.
For someone without BIID, I can’t see much in the film that makes it exactly amazing. The plot is interesting, and contains a lot of small details about BIID which are actually true, so from an informational point of view the film is better than one would expect for something of this nature, but I can’t imagine someone without BIID really being able to engage with the story. The numerous plot holes also detract from this element, and quite frankly I think the film is of rather poor quality apart from its informational accuracy. For someone trying to learn more about BIID, however, I would say that the film does offer a good overview however it is important to bear in mind the factual inaccuracies which I will point out below.
I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.
I’m not going to go into too much detail, but the summary is as follows: a supposedly paralysed radio reporter, Isaac, gets an anonymous call from “ancient chinese girl” about a man who went to a doctor and got his leg amputated in exchange for a large sum of money. Isaac decides to investigate, partly because it would make a good story and partly because of personal inquisitiveness. He speaks to a representative for the hospital and the representative tells him that the leg had not been amputated, however back at the office his colleague tells him that the leg had in fact been amputated.
The next day, Isaac receives another anonymous tip from the same girl, this one giving the location and time of a secret meeting by a number of people with BIID, all of them various kinds of paralysis wannabes. He attends the meeting, and at first they are confused by his presence until he announces that he is a radio reporter, whereupon they flee.
The next day Isaac arranges to meet the anonymous caller, and he interviews her at a restaurant, where she also reveals that her name is Fiona and says that she wants to understand why her friend wants to be paralysed. Isaac asks to meet her friend, and she agrees to take him to her house.
At her house, she reveals that she is in fact the wannabe herself, and goes on to explain a little about how she feels. She then explains that she needed to use her wheelchair right there and then, and wanted him to leave due to her embarrassment. Isaac encourages her not to worry, and instead she decides to go out in public in her wheelchair the next day, accompanied by Isaac.
They go out the next day, however Isaac is interrupted and has to leave. Fiona calls by his home that evening, and he apologises to her for leaving and she tells him that she had a wonderful day. They sleep together, but Fiona leaves some time during the night promising to call him some time the next day.
The next morning, Isaac discovers that a new pair of shoes are somehow magically giving him the ability to walk. Fascinated, he wears those shoes for the rest of the day, walking on crutches due to leg weakness. He meets Fiona at her workplace, where she tells him that she plans on using her wheelchair 24/7, and Isaac surprises her by showing her that he can almost walk again, not mentioning that he can only walk when he wears the new shoes. She is surprised and somewhat disappointed, as she was happy to have acceptance from a paraplegic and was unsure how to respond to his excitement at being able to walk when she wanted to be paralysed.
Fiona then decides that she wants to tell her mother about her use of the wheelchair. She had planned on arriving at her mother’s house and pulling the chair out before her mother saw her arrive, but she is too slow and her mother comes out to greet her and Isaac (who was still using crutches) before they had unpacked the chair. Fiona then ends up arguing with her mother about her work, and leaves without showing her the chair. By this time, Fiona is getting annoyed at Isaac trying to walk, as he is walking slowly, so they go back to his house to talk about things where he reveals that it was the special shoes that made him able to walk.
Fiona, angry at him for walking, confiscates the shoes and says she will only give them back if he helps her to become paralysed. Isaac is not happy with this, but complies anyway and meets Fiona at her workplace the next day with a chemical that will paralyse her. She refuses, and insists that he has to go with her to her house where he will paralyse her.
He meets her at her house thereafter, where it is revealed that Fiona had in fact caused the accident that had supposedly paralysed Isaac as a child, throws him out of his wheelchair, and disappears. The film ends with Isaac walking on crutches, having discovered that his paralysis is only psychological, and talking on the radio show about his experience, saying that he never heard from Fiona again.
The good points
The film has a lot of nice touches. The atmosphere is well conveyed, and the mood slowly changes in a subtle way that the viewer does not notice, just like a good film should be. The reporter’s office has a very convincing atmosphere which perfectly conveys the feeling of a small independently-run radio show. Isaac is played convincingly as a disabled character, as are the few other paralysed characters that appear.
There are also a few well-planned scenes, which add beautifully to the overall tone. I particularly liked the scene where Fiona is sitting on a park bench with curved handles, and is sliding her hand around the handle as if it was the wheel rim of the wheel on a wheelchair – this is before it is revealed that Fiona is in fact the wannabe. Similarly so with the scene at Isaac’s house where Fiona says that she had done well being in her wheelchair that day, only to stumble with getting the chair through Isaac’s doorway.
The bad points
Despite conveying a lot of feeling and meaning in the artistry, the plot itself is rather weak and somewhat disjointed. There is little, if any, continuation between the beginning and the end, despite the plot staying on the overall theme of BIID/disability. For example, the plot starts with a man wanting his leg amputated, but there is no further mention of amputation, and in fact at one point BIID is separated out as being purely amputation (which is probably the single biggest mis-conception that comes across) and the paralysis wannabes are put in a separate group. Likewise, there is initially a group of wannabes, but at the end the plot is focused pretty much entirely on Isaac and Fiona alone.
There are also numerous plot holes. For example, Fiona is initially interested in Isaac as someone who is paralysed, but it is later revealed that Fiona has been aware all along that Isaac is not really paralysed and that is paralysis is psychological.
I also found the plot to be somewhat predictable, as I had guessed fairly early on that Fiona had done something to cause Isaac’s paralysis or at least knew something about his paralysis that he himself did not know, although I could not guess exactly what it was. This predictability, along with the inconsistencies in Fiona’s reaction to Isaac, makes the ending rather flat, although the viewer is nevertheless kept guessing at exactly what Fiona’s secret is, and I must admit that I hadn’t got it before the ending, and I only figured the ending out completely after I had finished watching the film, so the film does keep the viewer engaged for some time past the ending.
Portrayal of BIID
Of course my main reason for watching the film was because of the focus on BIID, which I found interesting because that is a very unusual topic to have a film based around, and as someone with BIID I thought it would be interesting to see how well the condition had been portrayed. Indeed I would say that the portrayal was surprisingly realistic and accurate overall, and a lot of subtleties are nicely addressed.
I particularly liked the complex feelings and thoughts of Fiona, and these were developed nicely at many places in the film. We can see her emotional relief on confessing to Isaac, and her feelings the next day when she is using the wheelchair closely reflect my own feelings when I use my cane. The way she spoke about the difficulties of catching a cab and her frustration with non-automatic doors totally hit home with me, as she described those inconveniences as if she strangely liked them – a phenomenon which I have experienced myself.
The relationships between the wannabes and Isaac are also explored nicely, with each individual having their own reaction to him. His reaction to them is also nicely portrayed, and is typical of the more accepting PWDs that I have read about. I liked how Fiona was initially expecting Isaac to reject her, but he was open and in some places supportive of her feelings and she opened up towards him in return (thus is particularly why I find it annoying that Isaac later treats her as “f***ed up” as to me that does not seem to be a logical progression of their relationship).
Overall the portrayal of the characters and their interactions ties in nicely with what I have read and experienced myself, so I would say that the film gives a nice look at the more personal and practical aspects of BIID.
Nevertheless there are some factual inaccuracies. The most significant of these, as I have aforementioned, is that BIID is restricted to referring to the amputation variant and the paralysis wannabes are in fact excluded from the label of BIID in the one place where the term is mentioned (and this exclusion is actually used as a catalyst to make the paralysis wannabes seem even more strange). It is also somewhat misleading and rather disturbing that BIID support groups are represented in a “secret society” way, and I have come across at least one newcomer to the online BIID community that has been confused by this; it would be nicer if the BIID community was represented as friendly and welcoming, as in fact that is generally the case and it is very undesirable to put off newcomers who are just discovering the cause of their BIID feelings. Likewise, the wannabes at the beginning are portrayed as creepy and weird, and personally I found that somewhat offensive, but really that is to be expected from the media industry and it is quite easy to look past that once Fiona’s character has been developed more and we can see that BIID sufferers are actually pretty decent people.
Having said that, however, the film has surprising accuracy in other places, such as the accurate explanation of the DPW terminology and Fiona’s explanation of her feelings as “being trapped in a walking body” which is probably the best single-sentence summary of any BIID sufferer’s feelings.
Overall I would definitely recommend this film to anyone looking to get a realistic, down-to-earth overview of BIID in an easily accessible format, as long as one bears in mind the few issues that I have pointed out above. For a BIID sufferer, the film provides engaging and refreshing entertainment, although I must warn that I became quite emotionally involved in both of the main characters and of course this can be triggering (I had to pretend shortly after watching the film to keep my feelings under control). I can’t say that I really learnt anything from the film (except that Fiona pronounces “devotee” as “devotay”, whereas I have always pronounced the ending as in “see”, and the definition of the term “PWD” was a nice bonus), but I can imagine that someone who has done less research than me could definitely glean a lot about BIID – either as a sufferer or an inquisitive researcher – by watching the film, especially the kinds of things that can only otherwise be gleaned by reading a lot of blog posts by BIID sufferers.