Inside I’m Dancing

Welcome to week one of MD at the Movies, where Emma of SimplyEmma and I will be sharing our thoughts on five films starring a character with Muscular Dystrophy.

Posts will alternate between us both, so please make sure to bookmark Emma’s site so you don’t miss out.

This week we’re discussing Inside I’m Dancing, also known as Rory O’Shea Was Here, a 2004 comedy/drama film starring a young James McAvoy, Steven Robertson and Romola Garai about the lives of two young men with disabilities experiencing independent living for the first time.

To make it clear who’s speaking, Joe’s thoughts will be in blue and Emma’s will be in green.

Initial Thoughts

This was a bit of a cheat for me, as I’ve seen the movie a fair few times. I own it on DVD but had to rent it because I couldn’t be bothered digging it out.

The film has two titles, the European title being Inside I’m Dancing (which I prefer) and Rory O’Shea was here, which is a little spoilery and also sounds like something you’d see inscribed on the wall of a pub toilet.

There are so few films about Muscular Dystrophy, so there’s a lot of pressure in this indie flick to get it right but you know that James McAvoy is going to give it a good hard try.

I was excited to watch Inside I’m Dancing, especially having heard great things about it. I can’t believe it’s taken me sixteen years to finally watch it, but I guess good things come to those who wait. And it did not disappoint.

My only regret is that I didn’t watch it in my early teen years as it would have been great to see disabled people like me, in wheelchairs represented in a realistic way.


The two leads of the movie are Rory O’shea, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and the use of two fingers “sufficient for self propulsion and self abuse” and Micheal Connolly, who has Cerebral Palsy, requires a wheelchair and has difficulty with speech.

Rory O’Shea

Of the two central characters, Rory was my favourite, mostly because he’s a bit of a bastard.

I’ve got a particular like for films that show those with disabilities as emotional, arrogant and cheeky, which are traits of all of us share, regardless of disability.

He shows up like a hurricane, disturbing everything in his path but his demeanor is clearly masking a deeper pain and his frustrations with both his physical limitations and the world at large.

Our first introduction to him is on the bus used to transport him to Carrigmore, a residential home, where he is framed behind bars, almost a like an animal being rehomed.

I’m not sure if it was intentional but I got Hannibal Lecter vibes, not that I thought he’d be eating someone by the end of the movie but rather that he was dangerous, and sure enough he is.

But he shows that danger isn’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes it gets us to act as Micheal finds out later in the movie. In every scene he’s in, he’s a joy to watch and kept me laughing.

Michael Connolly

Rory was great, but I was particularly intrigued by Micheal and how Rory’s influence changed him.

Early on as they sit in Carrigmore, Michael asks him “What’s out there?” Rory replies “What’s out there? “Out there’s ‘out there’! I should be out there. Don’t you wanna be like everyone else? Get drunk, get arrested, get laid!”

It’s interesting to watch as they both rub off on each other while gaining the independence to leave and live together in their own flat.

In their new home, they find themselves in an unexpected love triangle when they hire Siobhan as their personal assistant.
Michael’s romantic feelings for her are visibly more apparent and when the feelings weren’t reciprocated, I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for him. Not in a pitiful or inspirational porn sort of way. I just genuinely wanted it all to work out in spite of him feeling unworthy of love. Something many disabled people can relate to.

The song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is sung a few times throughout the movie. The first time by a singer who is brought into the residential home to entertain the group. At the time Rory and Michael look unimpressed, but Rory then says “You’ve got the whole world in your hands” later in the movie to remind Michael of the future possibilities and encourage him to remain independent and not to go back to the residential home when life gets difficult.  

In his own unique way, Rory has made Micheal’s life infinitely better.


The plot is well crafted and made me consider the influence we have on others. It takes this one boy’s arrival to upend Micheal’s world view and give him the experience of what others take for granted.

His presence grants courage, and where it doesn’t, Rory takes charge, particularly when it comes to people viewing Micheal as unintelligent due to his difficulty in speaking.

Through this friendship, the boys experience joy and heartache whilst discovering how a bond such as theirs can withstand the worst of situations.

The film is laden with authentic dark humour, which I see exhibited by many people with disabilites (including me) and just the right mix of arsehole and inspiration that makes a compelling protagonist.

I wasn’t sure how the movie would pan out, but I did have an inkling of how it may end. Unfortunately, it ended the way I expected, but it still hit me hard. I was left teary-eyed with a big lump in my throat as a result.

This isn’t a sad movie though. It will make you laugh, cry, feel anger, frustration and happiness as it tells the story of the incredible friendship of Rory and Michael.

Although they both have a disability, they are very different in their attitudes and views on life. Michael has been living at the residential home for most of his life and is very much dependent on the care and support around him. Rory, on the other hand, is a rebel who doesn’t like being told what to do.

Despite their apparent differences, it was great to watch their friendship build especially the moment Michael realises Rory can understand his speech while everyone else has difficulty understanding him.


The film was as true to life as it could be.

The display of monotony in an assisted living facility is was expertly delivered. As Emma touched on before, Steven Robertson’s portrayal of Micheal was astounding. From his speech, his dropped lip, his (lack of) muscle control and the overall shape of his body. We also see Rory in a hoist, being put to his bed which is the correct equipment one would have.

I may be speaking for myself but Rory’s coping mechanism is typical of many people with disabilities I’ve met. We joke about our disability as we’d likely cry of we didn’t. This speaks to the frustrations many of us face and highlights us as human.

As in the theatre, life often finds joy and sadness intertwined.

The movie and actors did a fantastic job of portraying life with a disability. It was hilarious, emotional and an authentic take on life with a disability.

Steven Robertson who played Michael did an outstanding job. I can’t fault his performance as I was truly convinced he had cerebral palsy.

He nailed it – everything from the speech impediment, muscle contractures in his face and body to the way he moved. It was surprising to find out that Michael was in fact played by a non-disabled actor.

Rating out of 5

There’s no denying that this is a great film, though I found it jumped forward at times when I would liked to have seen the extend of the complications caused by the lead’s disabilities.

It’s profoundly funny and heart wrenchingly sad, a film you feel as you watch. The central performances were spectacular and I think everyone should see this movie.

Inside I’m Dancing is a real gem. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and can see myself watching it time and time again.

The actors were brilliant and although they are not disabled, their performances were realistic and powerful. This is a must-see film that everyone should watch at least once.

See you at the movies!

Thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed the first installment of MD at the Movies. If you haven’t already, hopefully, we have convinced you to go and watch Inside I’m Dancing.

Emma will be hosting the next movie review so make sure you are following us both and join in on our Muscular Dystrophy movie festival. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can find Emma on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter


  1. Absolutely love this film, infact inside I am dancing has been my catch phrase since watching the film years ago.
    Well worth another watch as my condition has progressed obviously since then, the thought of being in a wheelchair absolutely terrified me but now I am a fulltime power chair user life is actually great fun. (LGMD).
    Thank you both of you.

    • You’re more than welcome Amanda. I agree, absolutely worth the rewatch. Sadly we find that LGMD and other Muscular Dystrophies are overlooked in film. I hope you can join us next week for part 2 over on Emma’s blog.

  2. Looks like a very moving motion picture. I will definitely put that on my to watch list. Nicely criticed movie review, I enjoyed the read. Thanks guys.

  3. Loved this film although it’s a few years since I first watched it. I used to work at a residential college for students with physical and learning difficulties and it took me back to that incredible time in my life. The film was so typical of some of our students. Thank you for your great review.

    • Thanks for the kind comments Angela, it means a lot. Emma will be hosting our next feature next Friday.

      I’ve got a feeling you might also like that one. Thanks again.

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