Review by film critic Walter Owen, NYC
When Renee Rodrigues, her tiny body wrenched by muscular dystrophy, her words straining past a breathing tube stuck in her throat, says she is scared of the gall bladder operation she faces, you shiver yourself.
But then you hear her mother, Edit, describe how Renee “chose to fight and stay in this world” and you get a glimpse of the strength of character in this ruined body. Renee’s twenty years on earth, nine more — and counting — than doctors gave her, are documented in “Suck It Up, Princess.” Despite the title, the film does not make a princess out of Renee. Stricken after her first communion, she’s gone through too much to have illusions. When an uncle went on about how wonderful her new wheelchair was, Renee said to him, “If you think it’s so great, do you want one?” Of her absentee father, Renee says, “Who needs a Dad? They’re overrated.”
But pain is not, and the camera catches Renee exhaling through pursed lips when her gall bladder becomes agonizing, as it does several times a day. Doctors won’t remove the gall bladder until they believe Renee will survive the operation. Wincing in pain, Renee says she is afraid of going under aneasthetic. Then, with typical aplomb, she looks at the camera and assures us she can handle the fear, “as long as I wake up.” She pauses and adds, in her matter-of-fact way, “That’s very important, you know.”
So is work. Renee raises funds for Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and maintains a website. The computer is a lifeline for her because her disability is invisible on line. It is perhaps more in seeing the normal things Renee does than watching her struggle that we find ourselves wondering how we would cope with the obstacles she faces. This wonderful film gets us rooting harder for Renee the more we see of her, perhaps most thankful for her work, which “makes me feel that I’m just a regular person.”