Quid Pro Quo

2008, Movie, R, 82 mins


First time writer-director Carlos Brooks' peculiar psychological thriller revolves around a paraplegic radio commentator investigating the subculture of able-bodied people who want to be paralyzed.

New York-based public radio personality Isaac Knott (Nick Stahl) lost the use of his legs when he was eight, in a car accident that killed both his parents. Handsome, articulate and well adjusted, his show opens a wry window onto the day-to-day ironies of life in a wheelchair. When the station gets a tip that a man recently bribed a local doctor to amputate one of his perfectly healthy legs, Isaac scores the assignment. He subsequently loses it to a more experienced reporter, but finds himself drawn into an odd relationship with the tipster, mysterious art-conservator Fiona (Vera Farmiga). She eventually confesses that she's in thrall to the idea of being paralyzed, and draws Isaac into her perverse obsession through a combination of seduction and coercion. At the same time, he begins to regain some feeling in his legs -- is it the torrid sex, the vintage shoes Isaac half-jokingly calls magical or something else?

The similarities to David Cronenberg's CRASH (1996), based on the novel by J.G. Ballard, are superficial: Brooks is less interested in fetishism than extreme self-medication: Both Fiona and Isaac have developed extreme ways to compensatie for past trauma, but only one of them knows it. The story eventually resolves itself a little too neatly, but it never devolves into a freak show or a fable, thanks in large part to Farmiga and Stahl's deft, quirky performances. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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