By Sandrine Bonnaire (2007) gives a multi-tiered view of mental differences and how some of those who need special care are treated by the medical system, their peers, family and caregivers. Sabine, is the protagonist, a woman who was found to be different from her siblings and in need of particular care at a young age. Sabine is autistic and as a 38 year old large figured adult, she sits on a couch of a special home where her head hangs to the side and her mouth stays open with a drool. She is asked by a caretaker if she would like to see the animals. She answers yes but asks that if she sees the animals will it mean she can't go gardening as well. It's a surprisingly well thought out response given her overall expression.
Sabine enters a barn with a caretaker, pets a horse and feeds the animals as instructed. She drools fairly constantly and repeatedly asks to take a break. She is fatigued easily and seems fragile.
The scene flips to Sandrine dancing with her sister, many years before. They both look to be in their early twenties. Sabine gazes at the camera, with one eye squinting. She can dance, read and write. She's also barely recognizable as a very thin, pretty girl in a patterned sweater awkwardly and adorably dancing with her father and sister. She was enrolled at school with her siblings, but the tormenting by her peers caused her to self mutilate and within three months she was out of school. She stayed at home with her mother until she was twenty seven.
During those years with her family she was both creative and productive. She would make dolls, knit sweaters for the whole family, study English and Geography in her room for hours with books she bought with her own allowance money. Sandrine bought her a piano and with private instruction she was quickly playing advanced compositions by Schubert and Bach. She even composed her own piece, The Path of France
The scenes change to Sabine in the garden and not so much gardening as lying down with her back on the grass and her eyes closed, her arms to the side and her legs straight out in front of her. Sabine does not want to move and once propped up by a good natured caretaker lies down again. She seems genuinely exhausted and all her movements are exceedingly sluggish.
Somehow she makes it into the house as they are having lunch as a group. Sabine after a couple of forkfuls of food lets out a high pitched screech, twice. She wants to eat with Sandrine but can't as the latter is filming.
The difference in Sabine's appearance came after her stay in a hospital when she began to spit and hit her mother. She gained sixty pounds in a few years, began to drool and despite large quantities of oral medication she still hits and spits at times. Sandrine expresses shock at the difference the stay in the hospital had on Sabine. The filmmaker also, by way of theme, questions the efficacy of the medications on the patients. Does it really help them lead more fulfilled lives or does it just make them more ill by depleting the natural intelligence and slowing down the patient? Would Sabine have become worse on her own, with or without medicines?
These are questions that are left to the viewer to ponder, as there seems no perfect answer but the feeling that there must be a better way. It also makes one wonder, what of the patients whose families cannot afford such high end care as those in the film receive? Her name is Sabine connotes more from French as "Call Her Sabine." She is a person, a sibling and a friend.
By Sarah Bahl