In 2004 Frank Gardner was reporting in Saudi Arabia when he was shot 16 times by al-Qaeda gunmen, leaving him partially paralysed. Now, Frank is getting frank in this one-off film for the BBC, discussing the impact the shooting has had on his life, and what it’s like to live with a sudden disability.
The whole hour is moving and eye-opening, but what’s most boggling is how he talks about the attack without getting emotional – he mentions how his attacker smiled before opening fire, then continued to put four more bullets in him as he lay on the floor helpless. And this whole “just get on with it” attitude is the foundation of this film – Gardner is here to talk openly about the impact the life-changing injuries have had on his work, self-esteem and relationships, without trying to make us feel sorry for him. It really is quite ferociously British, and in some ways is more moving for the lack of emotion and Gardner’s stiff upper lip. But Frank is very open in admitting that life has posed new challenges since his injury, a particularly moving moment happening when he nearly misses his slot on the six o’clock news due to the lift playing silly buggers. But luckily the lift redeems itself when he reveals that this is where he met his new partner Elizabeth Rizzini – he visibly glows when talking about his love for her. And he is this honest about everything, having a good laugh when his colostomy bag made fart noises, and joking about how he may have lost use of his bladder and bowel, but had retained his romantic abilities. It’s a properly uplifting film.
The Times’ Carol Midgely calls it an “outstanding, honest documentary, especially in that it reminded the able-bodied of what hurdles the disabled face at every turn.” In The Telegraph, Michael Hogan says the film is “inspirational,” and “unflinchingly intimate from the start.” And it’s a good job the reviews are good, as apparently Gardner’s girlfriend is mortified by their telly PDA. She can rest assured, it warmed our hearts.
First shown November 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here: