by Nancy Austin, PhD – RI Council on the Humanities blogger for newportFILM

Looking for inspiration as the days darken? Introducing, Selma Blair is a surprising master class in how to face life-altering challenges with humor, grace, and the grit of a loving, inner strength that shines for others with the light of life. It is less a documentary about coming to terms with a recently-diagnosed disability and more a universally-relevant story about the odyssey of personal growth in the face of the difficult unknown. 

Time and again, the film captures Selma Blair’s hilarious irreverence as she improvises to make the most of whatever the situation has dealt her. In one instance, she creatively helps her son deal with one of her impending body changes in a way that makes sense for them both. In another, she riffs on the need to draw up funeral plans and speculates about what religion will have her? She spins political correctness with an on-going gag using a tiny prosthetic doll’s hand on the end of one of her fingers, because we all need perspective – and humor! And yet. As her own hopeful timeline is thwarted for seeing the improvements she expected to be seeing, she doubles down on the need to stay grounded, practice patience and bring gratitude to each domestic day. 

Near the end of the film, Selma Blair dresses up in her mother’s old party dress and takes to the water. She reflects that often in old movies, this kind of water scene would mean the character had given up. But not so! In fact, the contrary. Selma reflects on one of her mother’s perhaps intended lessons that the daughter never fully grasped: We are all helpless in life, so get over yourself! Use this one precious gift of life to be fully present for others. Selma responds to this emboldened new awareness by shedding the dress underwater in symbolic spiritual rebirth, and affirming her own renewed hope that before she dies she will indeed have made a difference to others.  

Introducing, Selma Blair resonates with optimism and should find a wide, welcoming audience. There can be no doubt this film stars the former actress in the most important role of her life. May we all be present.