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Every Time You Look At Me (2004)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Every Time You Look At Me (2004)
DirectorAlrick Riley
Production CompanyBBC
ProducerEwan Marshall
ScriptLizzie Mickery
PhotographyDewald Aukema

Cast: Mat Fraser (Chris), Lisa Hammond (Nicky), Lindsey Coulson (Kath), Lorraine Pilkington (Michelle), John Woodvine (Roger), Stuart Laing (Steve), Jan Carey (Ann)

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Two disabled people fall in love, but find themselves confronting their own prejudices as much as those of society around them.

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It's a familiar scene: a packed nightclub, two people's eyes meet, one comes over to introduce himself... but in Lizzie Mickery's drama (BBC, tx. 14/4/2004) Chris (Mat Fraser) then discovers that Nicky (Lisa Hammond) is only four foot one, and she in turn sees that his arms are only half the expected length thanks to the side-effects of the thalidomide drug that his mother took in pregnancy.

Given the confrontational persona that he's shown through his career to date, it comes as little surprise that Mat Fraser's first lead role in a feature-length television drama would be in something like Every Time You Look At Me, whose narrative constantly challenges not only its audience's expectations but also those of its characters - not least Chris and Nicky themselves.

The line quoted in the title, "every time you look at me you see yourself", sums up their dilemma. Having spent their lives trying to rise above their respective disabilities and integrate seamlessly into 'normal' society, they're initially horrified by the prospect of them becoming a couple, and Chris is given a further test when, shortly after he proposes marriage to Nicky, her mother Kath (Lindsey Coulson) reveals that her daughter's problems aren't restricted to her height.

While the film occasionally resorts to sequences showing the obstacles Nicky and Chris face in their daily lives (notably when they check into the hotel independently, and finding that everything from the length of the chain connecting the pen to the reception desk to the height of the lift buttons conspires to thwart them), it's otherwise notably matter-of-fact about disability. In particular, the scenes of physical love are shot with a tenderness and sensitivity that implicitly rebukes film-makers who have shied away from such material in the past.

Producer Ewan Marshall had previously tackled disability-related issues in three short BBC films from 2002, North Face (tx. 26/9), The Egg (tx. 2/10) and Urban Myth (tx. 3/10), the first and last of which featured Hammond and Fraser respectively. Given the chance to make a 90-minute feature, he commissioned Mickery's script with them specifically in mind, and Fraser has claimed that this is the first television romantic drama to be based around two disabled lead performers. It was also the first BBC film to be shot on high-definition digital video, which produces a far more lustrous image than conventional video while retaining the advantages of electronic post-production.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Their eyes met... (1:06)
2. In the hotel (3:51)
3. Confrontation (4:43)
4. Nicky's secret (2:18)
Fraser, Mat (1962-)
TV Drama in the 2000s