Starfish is the story of a man ripped apart inside and out who, like a starfish, grows back that which he has lost. The film begins, with a stay at home father Tom Ray (Tom Riley) doting on his young first-born Grace (Ellie Copping); telling her about how magical starfishes are and their ability to grow back their limbs. It is an idyllic family, with a heavily pregnant, working wife Nicola (Joanne Froggatt) completing the trio. Thus the crushing reality of what they were going to face hits hard. Unbeknownst to them, Tom falls ill with Septicemia (Sepsis), a blood poisoning disease which on average only 1 in 10 people survives past the first 24 hours.
The film is heart wrenching in its portrayal of the pain of a wife who is desperate to save her husband but also terrified of the future that Tom’s amputation will bring as Tom loses both his legs, arms and parts of his face in order to save his life. The trauma he endures is emphasised further by the desire and drive deep within Tom to be the best father and husband he can – a dream rooted in his own rocky childhood.
It is a hugely visceral experience as the audience witnesses the turmoil of a man unable to hold his new born son or even kiss his wife. However the story is not just about Tom, it is also about the strength and dedication of a small determined family to never surrender. Bill Clark directs with empathy and caution a harrowing tale of loss, compromise and struggle for a young family to get back all that was taken from them. The film is based on the true story of Tom Ray which makes the tale even more compelling in its honesty over the weight of such an illness and also the burden it places not only on the victim but the family. It leaves us with the question of what more can we do for people like Tom, who are victims of such diseases and without societal safety nets for them or their families.
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