I noticed a movie on Netflix the other day called Armless.

Can you guess what it’s about? Yup, it’s a “wannabe” guy who longs to get rid of his arms.

I always feel nervous about watching movies that are specifically about devotees, pretenders, or wannabes. I don’t trust the people creating it to understand.

So today I finally got up the courage to watch it.

It’s an indie film and like many modern indie films, it is heavy on the atmosphere and very light on the action or dialog. A subject like this, I think, requires more than just watching a morose man wandering around not being able to tell people that he wants to have his arms removed. It’s more than half way through the movie before people start actually talking about this desire and what it means. At that point it practically turns into a stage play, but a good one. I really liked the second half a lot.

There is an interesting conversation half way through between a doctor that the man asked to remove his arms and the doctor’s receptionist. They start to discuss whether it’s wrong for this man to want his arms removed. I think it could have gone more in depth. But the end of the conversation was interesting as the doctor behaved in ways similar to the wannabe guy (with different issues). It started to open the story up to all the other people.

They did seem to be showing that no one is “normal.” There are a lot of messed up behaviors and people going on in this movie.

Of course there’s a scene where the wannabe guy tries to explain to his wife why he wants this. He describes seeing a man without arms when he was eight. Because of course deviations on normal always come from some childhood event! Then again, his description of the appeal of being armless and how he was inspired by seeing this armless man rings true to real life. 

The doctor sings a song in karaoke and the lyrics are quite moving about the desire to be someone else and not being able to change.

The lesson to me in this story is that this guy held it all in, trying so hard not to share it with anyone. He is living in fear that people will find him disgusting and he will lose everything. If only he could have talked this through with his wife years ago! I am very grateful that my husband has known all my dark kinks right from the start. He has loved and accepted me and I never had to hide anything from him.

I guess I can’t really critique these kinds of movies because I’m coming at it from this very different angle from the average viewer. I am not a wannabe or a pretender myself, but I understand it. It makes sense to me. I wonder what point the makers of the movie were hoping to make. What do they want people to think of this man and his desire?

In the end, I think this is a reasonably accurate portrait of a wannabe. But I wish they could have gotten more in depth with it. Maybe it’s a hopeless cause to wish for a movie that would explain this desire in a way that standard people would “get.” I don’t really understand why they don’t just give him what he wants. What’s so horrible about it? It’s his life and I think he knows what will make him happy.


  1. Devushka
    Apr 27, 2013

    I have also seen this film, though it was over a year ago when I saw it, and I do remember thinking at the time how much it did seem to reflect the feelings at least of those wannabes with whom I have spoken, though not entirely. Like you, I do think it lacked a certain level of depth regarding the issues the main character faced. And it was definitely morose and melancholy. But I think it was also somewhat realistic, including the feeling of melancholy. And it definitely painted a better picture of wannabes than the French film “Devotee” portrayed devotees. It sought understanding, in a way, and it portrayed the wannabe man in a complex way that reflects the realities of life. I probably won’t watch it again because it just doesn’t have the right kind of mood for repeat viewing, but it wasn’t time wasted the first time around. Especially as it portrayed a type of character very rarely seen in film – a wannabe. If you’re interested in the subject matter, it’s worth it to see the film at least once.

  2. mark
    May 10, 2013

    i saw the picture about a year ago – first i was very intrigued because the usual case biid portrayed in movies is either a single above amputation or paralysis. so being a quad amputee wannabe myself i was excited to see it.
    for a no-budged indy it was pretty well executed, though the end was quite a bummer. he should have gotten his arms amputated – even if he would have died from blood loss due to sawing them off himself it would have been a better ending. but they decided to let it end pretty lame – as if the script writers lost their courage at the last moment.

    • RuthMadison
      May 10, 2013

      I also was expecting him to get what he wanted in the end. Not sure what’s so terrible about it! But I guess it’s kind of the modern film style to have quiet and somewhat ambiguous endings. I did like the response of his wife at the end, though. I think it really suggested that they were going to work together to get him to happiness. And maybe eventually she would concede that being armless is right for him.

  3. Mihir
    Aug 19, 2013

    I finished the film just now. I was goggling about it to search some discussion forum on it and and I found this. I have a slight different angle to look at it. To me, when in the climax, his wife grabs him and says “there’s nothing there” , takes his arms off her back is of utmost importance. It is as if she understands that this is how John is and this is what I have to keep on pretending to make him happy. Sometime in your life, you have to keep pretend to make your loves one’s happy. It is part of your life. Even if it ‘disgusts’ you or even that person is actually not able to do it.

    Also, as someone mentioned here, no one is “normal”. I’d say every person in life needs something to make him happy. Everyone needs some escapism from the craziness of the world. In case of John, amputating his arm, in case of doctor it is mountaineering and in case of his mother, it is Asian man. All of it is metaphor. ..

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 23, 2013

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I agree that the message of the film is no one is normal!

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