"The Theory of Flight" is a delightful romantic comedy. Tackling a difficult subject matter--a debilitating illness--with wit and charm, writer Richard Hawkins and director Paul Greengrass spin a whimsically light tale of love and the creative spirit.
Jane (played with grace by the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter) is a lovely 25-year-old who tragically suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. Although the degenerative disease has impaired her speech and robbed her of the ability to walk, it hasn’t stolen her defiant nature.
Richard (Kenneth Branagh) is a painter obsessed with flying. After a failed attempt with a handcrafted set of wings, this would-be Icarus is sentenced to 120 hours of community service. He serves out his time as the petulant Jane’s “buddy,” taking her to the museum and other boring destinations her overbearing caretakers suggest.
From the outset, Jane makes it clear to Richard, in no uncertain terms, that she doesn’t want to be pitied. She wants to enjoy the same things other young women enjoy. And that doesn’t include frequent trips to the museum.
As their friendship blossoms, Jane confesses that she wants to enjoy something else other young women enjoy. Jane wants to lose her virginity before she dies. And she wants her attractive new friend Richard to help. Richard fumbles for an excuse: he insinuates that he is impotent. As the audience, we believe him. His obsession with reinventing flight has consumed his life. He has left London, ostensibly to recuperate, and has taken up residence on a dilapidated farm. The empty barn houses the flying machine he is building.
Richard decides to help Jane by finding her a man who can do the job. They travel to London to hire a male prostitute. After a series of ludicrous hijinx that culminate in painful self-realization, Jane discovers that while she thought she only wanted sex, her heart was seeking love. And Richard finds that, in spite of his destructive self-absorption, he has fallen for the rebellious Jane.
Their love takes flight, borne on the wings of its own passion. And, for a moment, both Richard and Jane get to touch the sun. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.