No Limbs, No Limits is the story of seventeen year old Joanna O’Riordan who was born without any limbs due to an extremely rare condition known as Total Amelia Syndrome.
Joanna came to the public’s attention when she successfully challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny over cuts to disability funding. In 2011, the Taoiseach was forced to amend the budget after Joanne released footage of him promising her that the disability allowance would not be cut.
Since successfully changing government policy, Joanna has made several television appearances, notably on the ‘Late Late Show’ and in 2012 she made an address at the UN to the International Telecommunication’s Union’s conference ‘Girls in Technology’.
No Limbs, No Limits follows Joanne in her daily life and centres on her emergence as a public figure. Joanna’s story is a poignant and moving one. The fly-on-the-wall style in the film allows Joanne’s captivating personality to emerge and particularly, footage of Joanne’s parents, Dan Joe and Anne, is touching. The story of their transformation in attitude from trepidation and fear at their child’s condition to determination to give Joanne the best life possible resonates strongly.
Filmmaker Steven O’Riordan, Joanne’s brother, shows himself to be highly competent. However, No Limbs, No Limits feels limited at times by his closeness to the subject. Frustrating moments occur throughout the film where it teeters on the edge of delving deeper into Joanne’s character. One such moment happens when Joanne is flown to England to meet Tina, another Total Amelia sufferer.
The two women briefly talk about the very real issue of relationships for those with disabilities, with Tina revealing she has used the internet to meet partners. Rather than delving deeper at this point, the documentary cuts to a montage of Joanna and Tina driving their scooters around a supermarket.
As a film, No Limbs, No Limits would have benefited more from exploring further Joanne’s everyday challenges. The narrative, provided by Tony award winning actress Marie Mullen, feels anchored to a strict party line of “Joanne the Superhero”, focusing on a blow by blow of her achievements since confronting the Taoiseach.
Despite this, the film’s main objective is to bring this an amazing story to a wider audience and in this it succeeds. The film debuted in Cork last September and was a big success at the recent Jameson’s Film Festival. With the film due to receive a wider cinema release later this year in Ireland, it is fantastic that more people will get the opportunity to see it.
Michael Sheils McNamee