Ella Glendining, in her thought-provoking documentary, candidly shares the experience of being a woman in her 20s living with a condition known as proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD). Despite not using this term in the film, Glendining openly discusses her journey of navigating life without hip joints and with shortened femurs. While she is able to walk or use a wheelchair without significant difficulties, she faces discrimination from others.
These include those who are excruciatingly well-meaning: Glendining and a friend with autism recount a revealing anecdote about Glendining using her wheelchair in the street, and someone quite far away on the pavement starting to cringe away from her, apparently making space but in a weirdly self-aggrandising way, radiating coded pass-agg hostility while saying: “Sorry … sorry … sorry … thank you … sorry …”
Glendining has a partner who is not disabled and they have a child together. She believes that the difficulties she encounters as a young mother and young person in the film and TV industry are ultimately rooted in ableism. Although she has physical disabilities, they are not the primary source of these challenges. Her condition may be uncommon, and before the internet, she may have felt completely isolated and alone in her experiences. She desires to connect with others who share similar experiences and see herself represented in other individuals.
Glendining embarks on a trip to the United States to connect with others facing similar circumstances. She also meets with non-disabled parents of children affected by the same condition. During her time in Florida, she has a tense interaction with Dr Dror Paley, a renowned practitioner of limb-lengthening surgery. His clinic is adorned with large photos of himself, and while he sees the surgery as beneficial, Glendining views it as a painful and harmful process that promotes ableism. The conversation becomes uncomfortable when Dr Paley suggests that those who disagree with his perspective need to be “educated”, although there is no direct debate captured on camera. Glendining offers her own form of education on the matter.