Monday, January 25, 2010

Like Stars on Earth

I just watched the movie, Like Stars on Earth. It's about an eight-year-old Indian boy who has dyslexia. He's doing poorly in school, failing in his second attempt at third grade, and acting out so badly that his father decides to send him away to boarding school. Once he's there, he emotionally shuts down as a result of the discipline and failing grades he receives. Fortunately, a temporary art teacher, who also has dyslexia, reaches out to the child, the school's principal and teachers, and his family.

It is, however, a difficult movie to watch. Not only is it two hours and 45 minutes long, but the struggle faced by the child is not glossed over. Nor should it be. This is a very effective way to highlight the difficulties faced by children and their families when they aren't diagnosed properly with learning difficulties. The movie also realistically portrays bullying, as well as the abandonment felt by the child when he was sent off to boarding school. (There are multiple references to the R. word.)

I was disturbed by some of the messages regarding disability in the movie. I found the emphasis upon having a disability always linked to an exceptional talent a bit problematic. It certainly is good to teach children that we have different talents, and we see the world differently, but it's not necessary to have an exceptional talent to have worth if you have a disability any more than it's necessary to have an exceptional talent if you're nondisabled. This theme is repeated throughout the movie since the "best student" at the boarding school is physically disabled and uses crutches. The lead character who has dyslexia is an exceptional artist. The teacher emphasizes how many famous people had dyslexia- and on and on. It is as if there is a dichotomy between the children in the school for the disabled and the exceptionally talented disabled kids which undercuts the theme of the equal worth of everyone.

But on the good side this movie realistically portrays some things about the experience of being disabled. I just wish it hadn't involved so many examples of black-and-white thinking. It's in the gray areas that true understanding will flourish.


Starry said...

Hello. Please pardon my ignorance, but which is the R word.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Glad you asked- here's a link to more information:

kristi01pr said...

I just watched the movie, I know it is a very long one but truly worthy to watch. I cried all along. I have a Child just like Ishaan and there is much more to learn about this movie then what you have pointed out. For us , parents it is a must to watch. So many children are rejected by their own parents just because they are different !! I really loved it and about the R word, it's ok not to be ashamed of it and say it out loud, so what at the end of all things every time ...We have so many R's much better then many who think they are not!!

Bob said...

Excellent review, Ruth, thanks.

I just have to say that the previous comment sounds like the person doesn't understand the r word campaign. No one is saying that anyone should be ashamed- that really is turning it around in a strange kind of way.