Come As You Are (4 stars)

Come As You Are

The sexual desire of a trio of men with disabilities drives an enjoyable and irreverent comedy

While the essential plot sounds like a bawdy noughties' road-tripper – three American virgins cross the Canadian border in search of sexual kicks – in the detail, Come As You Are couldn't be more different. Based on a true story, and the hit 2011 Belgian comedy Hasta la Vista (later remade into the 2016 Dutch film Adios Amigos), the men in question have disabilities, with the brothel they're heading to catering specifically to their needs.

Directed, edited and shot by Richard Wong and featuring a cameo from disability rights activist Asta Philpot (whose views and experiences fed into the original Belgian film), Come As You Are is as sensitive to its subjects as you would hope, but never mires itself in sentimentality. Instead, it demonstrates a commitment to keeping things predominantly comical, in a manner that's refreshingly frank and irreverent, and deftly avoids anything that might stigmatise or belittle its protagonists.

As can be controversial, its central trio do not have the disabilities they are depicted with. It stars Grant Rosenmeyer (The Royal Tenenbaums) as the abrasive 24-year-old Scotty, quadriplegic from birth and depressingly dependent on his devoted mother Liz (the great Janeane Garofalo). Scotty is gagging to get his rocks off and when he hears about Le Chateau Paradis, a specialist facility in Montreal that can help with that, he organises a road trip with reluctant pals Matt (Hayden Szeto), who is also confined to a wheelchair, and the visually impaired Mo (Ravi Patel). Their driver is the initially oblivious Sam (Gabourey Sidibe), while in hot pursuit are their parents.

Although Come As You Are has a laugh with the trio's limitations by getting stuck into some See No Evil, Hear No Evil-style shenanigans, it's a film equally alive to its characters' frustrations. They have been effectively infantilised by their conditions: all three men are well into adulthood (Mo is 35) and yet are utterly lacking in personal freedoms and privacy. The sex lives of those with disabilities are not often seen or discussed on screen (with rare exceptions like Ben Lewin's 2012 film The Sessions), so the content is as fresh as it is funny.

Wong steers his film carefully away from both the crassness of the commercial comedies it superficially resembles and the over-earnestness of triumph-against-adversity stories, to produce a likeably loose and empathetic indie. It succeeds by acknowledging that, whether we're talking fundamental wants and needs or just our tendencies to make arses of ourselves, people are much more similar than they are different.

Available to watch on demand from Fri 17 Jul.

Come As You Are

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Richard Wong
  • Written by: Erik Linthorst
  • Cast: Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto, Ravi Patel, Gabourey Sidibe
  • UK release: 17 July 2020

Three young men with disabilities (Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto, and Ravi Patel) head off on a road trip to a Montreal brothel that caters to customers with special needs. Sam (Gabourey Sidibe), a travelling nurse, takes them on this journey to have their first sexual experience and celebrate their new-found independence.