Unanswered Questions

By October 8, 2018 September 18th, 2019 No Comments

Me: What has been the best thing about us making our film together?

Isaac: ……What?

Me: How does it feel to be eleven?

Isaac: I don’t know

Me: What happens on a good day?

Isaac: Lots of different things

Me: What happens on a bad day?

Isaac: Lots of different things

And so on…

You get the picture.

I have found that it is almost impossible for Isaac to do something if it isn’t 100% beneficial to him. Some might say that this is fair enough. I wonder if it is perhaps because he is good at spotting something that feels contrived?

My original plan for this next blog was going to be one in which Isaac and I would interview each other. It didn’t quite happen like that…

His unwillingness to answer the questions that I ask him is a reflection of a few things; a reluctance to conform to what is expected, a lack of interest, but mostly an inability to expand on his feelings and reflections when they are not immediately connected to his present needs. This can be a daily puzzle for us; the unanswered questions. Although they are also a reality as I try to find out more about what it is he is experiencing, the detail that no medical professional will ever be able to tell me.

All parents have an element of the unknown. But for us parents living with more complex situations, it is woven into every moment of every day. What Isaac says and what he feels are often very far apart and the process of bringing the the two together is like being on a constant search. Will I ever stop worrying about how he is coping? No. Will I ever stop worrying about whether his little soul is content? No. Will I ever stop worrying about what will happen to him when I die? No. And look – it seems I just answered some of my own questions…

I also want to talk a bit about perspective, as I think it is something I am struggling with at this point in the process.

From a distance much of the detail of our lives can be hard to see. For example, if you were to look at Isaac and I sitting in a café we might seem pretty ordinary – a mother and son having a chat. On approaching a little closer you might notice some support equipment; a wheelchair or maybe the splints that Isaac is wearing. If you were to join us at the table (depending on the day) it might be possible to overhear a snap-shot of an ‘ordinary’ exchange, but I’m pretty sure it would be only a matter of minutes before things started to become a little less typical. Taking a step closer into our world and you begin to see the the complexity laid bare. Often people stare and it’s pretty painful and I am left wondering what they see.

With this in the forefront of my mind, this current stage of making the film has been particularly tricky. I have transitioned from Phil/Participant/Mum to Phil/Artist/Editor making decisions on what is seen and how it is shown. This has been a mighty challenge and something I feel I could not have managed without collaborating with the brilliant and sensitive film-maker Geraldine Heaney. She has listened to me for a long time but I also know that it is not really possible for her to know if the material we use in the edit is the truest reflection of our life as we live it. Only I can make the decision on how much feels right to show.

I suppose I go between feeling bold and sure of my desire to show what is most real and true to feeling like I want to take it all away and forget the whole thing! The reality is that an audience will bring their own perspective to the film and this will be largely determined by their own existing perceptions and personal experiences. More unanswered questions…

All I can really do is try to show what it is that we captured in this last year and tell you as much as I can about how life can be for us. The rest is down to you.

  • Phil Clark (Mother/Artist)

About Eleven:

Eleven is a film by Philippa Clark and Isaac Clark O’Malley with film-maker Geraldine Heaney. It will open at Tramway as part of the Unlimited Festival on 18th October 2018.

For more information visit:

  • Image – Selfie taken by Isaac Clark O’Malley and Phil Clark


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