Making Sense, directed by Gregory Bayne, strives to make those with disabilities visible. The story is built around those disabilities, but also around the abilities that are also part of those lives. It does so not only with the story, but by using disabled actors in several of the roles.
Jules (Jessi Melton) leads a group of grad students who are trying to create a device to help deaf people “hear” through using their sense of touch. It is a passion project for Jules, whose sister is deaf (apparently through some fault of Jules, but that isn’t really clear). After a demonstration shows the project is failing, she is contacted by Dr. Amberger (Richard Klautsch) who has his own passion project—to connect various disabled people to find a “sixth sense” to find access to a greater awareness.
The film works with the concept of neuroplasticity—that when people lose a sense, their brains create new neuro-pathways to use other senses to fill in what is missing. For example, someone who is blind may be able to tell far more from their hearing than others. The film uses terminology like “sensory enlightenment” to speak of this.
Amberger is a mad scientist character. He tried to do this many years ago, but when it took a bad turn, he had to abandon the project. It also led to him being sought by the authorities. Now with health issues of his own, he sees this as his last chance. When Jules goes along with him to finish his project, she puts her own project in jeopardy. They recruit others (including Jules’s sister) each missing a particular sense. Amberger’s theory is that the way each has rewired their brain will open a pathway to that sixth sense.
Press notes for the film put an emphasis on the way disabilities are treated in society, and especially in the media. They note that fewer characters in films and TV have disabilities than in real life. And of those characters, very few are portrayed by people with those disabilities. Making Sense uses people with disabilities in those key roles. It should be noted that this kind of diversity is being called for in the industry.
This is a sci-fi film that struggles with the science involved. The premise really isn’t fully developed, nor is the plotline featuring the FBI agents in pursuit. The film does serve as a way of providing a visible presence of actors with disabilities.
Making Sense is available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media