Oscar bait much? Let’s see. French movie? Check. Debilitating illness? Check. A guy who blinks out an entire book, for crying out loud? Check. A totally engrossing movie? Check. Wait, what?

Well, first and foremost, let’s skip right to the important part. Mathieu Almaric. Villain in Quantum of Solace. The most important movie since…well…Casino Royale. There are few things that matter more than the next Bond movie. So while the Bond producers made an unforgivable decision on the screenwriter, I’m happy to report they continue to do well with choosing actors. I’m very much looking forward to Almaric playing a baddie.

I may have gone into this movie with lower expectations than any other one this year. So sure, that may have had an impact on my opinion. But assuming you can handle a weighty drama with no discernible action (unless you consider, say, blinking or wistfulness actions) or love scenes, Diving Bell really is a great movie. Schnabel and Almaric (to a lesser extent, given that most of the time all he can do is blink) do an extraordinary job of taking us through Bauby’s emotions, while maintaining a compelling narrative. I found the flashback and fantasy scenes weighted just right so that the movie always seems to be capturing Bauby’s state of mind while giving us a more informed perspective. Indeed, Schnabel”s deft touch becomes apparent in the very first scenes of the movie. These scenes are pretty crucial to setting up the movies, and as we learn along with Bauby what has happened, the movie does an excellent job of conveying all that is going on, in something that very easily could have been way over the top.

My only quibbles were that the strands connecting Bauby’s father (the esteemed Max von Sydow) as well as the mistress to Bauby seemed a bit too wispy, just a little too disconnected. I would have liked to see a little more there. I can’t speak to either of the Directing or Adapted Screenplay categories until I see There Will Be Blood, but I think Diving Bell’s nominations in both categories were well-deserved, as the movie is probably going to end up in my top ten favorite films of the year.

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