When Joanne O’Riordan was born without limbs, her parents were told there was little chance she would survive. Tenacity prevailed, however, and in April 2012, Joanne spoke to the United Nations about the role of technology in her life. Combined with interviews with Joanne and her family, No Limbs, No Limits follows Joanne as she travels to New York to address the UN.
There is little doubt that Joanne O’Riordan has lived an extraordinary life so far, and packed more into her 17 years than many of us do in a lifetime. No Limbs, No Limits – named after a line in O’Riordan’s speech to the UN – not only gives us a behind the scenes look at the life of a young person living in extraordinary circumstances, but it reminds us what can be done with life when we believe in ourselves. It also helps that Joanne is surrounded by loving friends and family, and she seemingly refuses to be limited by how she was born.
With all of this in mind, however, perhaps the film’s biggest flaw is that Joanne’s brother Stephen directed it. This is not his first film, but it seems as though O’Riordan’s closeness to his family means that he does not wish to convey any negativity about then, even if it went some way to making them feel more relatable. In interviews, Joanne has said that she and her sister Gillian ‘kill each other most of the time’, and that her house is often ‘crazy’, but there is no sense of this in the film. As well as this, although there is a short interview with Joanne’s parents about their coming to terms with Joanne’s condition, a more thorough exploration of their experience may have led to a more rounded film.
In all, No Limbs No Limits is a rather trite film about an extraordinary young woman. Joanne O’Riordan has taken on the government and won, talked at the UN, been named Cork Person of the Month and Young Person of the Year at the People of the Year Awards. There certainly seems to be no limit to what this woman can achieve. When it comes to the film, however, the choice to tell it in a sweet and heart warming manner is ultimately what limits it; a more honest look into the life, struggles and challenges faced by Joanne and her family could ultimately have made a more satisfying film.