By Katie Hollier, Trustee, Royal Mencap Society.
I’ve worked with people with learning disabilities for over 20 years and this film truly reflects what it is like to do so.
What strikes me as I get older is that we all have gaps somewhere in our psyche, whether it’s an emotional shortfall or something missing in the intellect. The standard response to this is to find a way of filling that gap, fretting over what is missing. This is where we can all learn a lot from people with learning disabilities.
It seems to me that they compensate for what they may not have intellectually or emotionally by focusing on the things that make life enjoyable and worthwhile; relationships, music, cooking, sharing and learning. They rarely focus on political divides, and when they do, it’s generally to offer a view that we should help each other more.
Watching Summer In The Forest alerts you to this in a beautiful way. It reaches out to one’s sense of what it is to be human and what it is to lead a worthwhile life. It talked to me of how it feels to connect with each other, make peace – and what life is all about.
I especially loved the episodes in the car, where Michel and his carer are laughing and joking, and also sharing some quite serious thoughts about Michel’s past. It’s a part of the film that really resonates because they interact as equals, learning and teaching each other just by spending time together. The helpers were like the helpers I work with – engaged and rewarded.