Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
THE REAL SUPERBOY
IN THE BEGINNING WE ASKED, 'WHY DID this happen to us?' " says Cheryl Gentry, 39, of her severely deformed son Charley. "But every day a little piece is answered. I believe his main purpose is to educate and help society."
With the energetic cheerfulness of any other 7-year-old, Charley Gentry fulfills that promise in Without Pity: A Film About Abilities, a moving HBO documentary premiering on Oct. 8 (and airing again Oct. 14 and 17). Narrated by Christopher Reeve, it profiles seven remarkable people surmounting enormous physical disabilities.
Charley, for reasons doctors have not yet determined, was born without arms or legs—only the stub of what might have been his left foot. He uses that, and his mouth, to pick up toys and utensils. At home in Phoenix, he rolls on the floor from room to room; at school he rides a customized wheelchair. "He has a computer," says Cheryl, who works in a Christian counseling center, "but someone has to turn it on for him, hand him the mouth stick and give him the mouse."
Gentry moved to Phoenix with Charley and her two older daughters in June to be in an area with better facilities for Charley. (At the time of filming, the family lived in Price, Utah, where Cheryl had already separated from Charley's father, Bill, a farmer.) When the new school year began, she accompanied Charley to class, answering students' questions. "Once those kids' curiosity is sated," she says, "everyone is Charley's best friend."
So far, Charley and Reeve, paralyzed in a fall from a horse in 1995, have met only via satellite at the Television Critics Association press tour. But the show has fulfilled one dream, Charley says: "To show that I can do more stuff than you thought I could."
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