The Red Dragon feels a little cheated by this film. The ending delivers a strong emotional punch, one that was felt throughout the audience and had a few in tears. The rest of the film, however, does not do a good job, especially when it tries to be humorous as it does too often and with too little effect. It tells the true story of poet Mark O’Brien, played by John Hawkes, who can move only his head and must spend most of each day in an ‘iron lung’ in order to stay alive, though he can still feel sensation throughout his entire body. He begins ‘sessions’ with a sex therapist, played by Helen Hunt, to explore that which has always been denied to him, and the film follows his sexual awakening and the emotional consequences that follow.
The performances are good, but perhaps the film’s biggest problem is a lack of connection with the main character. Sarcastic humour has too much of an emphasis from the start and it never really comes off well, creating the lack of a feeling of reality and seriousness from the onset, although for the character being upbeat is certainly to be applauded. Similarly, the transition from what is supposed to be a lot of comedy into more serious characterisation and emotional connection also seems loose and ungrounded. A shame because it is a good story. Hunt is up for an academy award for her performance and although it is perhaps merited, The Red Dragon has on occasion mooted a possible correlation between the bravery of actresses baring all onscreen and Oscar nominations.
Interestingly, if the connection between the characters seems a little unlikely, have a look at this recent scientific article on the possible side effects of male sperm on the female reproductive system.