This film is part of Rentals

Walter 12 rating

Ian McKellen stars in Stephen Frears' TV play as Walter, a man with learning difficulties who's put in an institution after the death of his mother.

Drama 1982 73 mins

Director: Stephen Frears



Ian McKellen stars in this Channel 4 TV play from acclaimed director Stephen Frears. McKellen plays Walter,a man with learning difficulties who encounters many barriers. Things get worse for Walter, however, once his mother passes away and he is sent to live in a learning disability hospital. The film charts his life in this institutional setting, as he impacts everyone around him differently.

Frears imbues a sensitivity and grit to the character portrayal, eliciting sympathy but never overly sentimentalising. Although McKellen delivers a bravura performance, a long-standing debate continues around the representation of disabled characters by non-disabled actors. Similar to the arguments and discussions around white actors "blacking up" with an eye to Oscar glory, some disabled actors and activists feel strongly that disability on screen and stage should only be represented by disabled people. Learning disabled actors are increasing being given roles, but often not headline ones. Frears went on to have a successful and fascinating career, directing films such as My Beautiful Laundrette, The Grifters, The Queen, and Philomena. He made a sequel to Walter - Walter and June - again starring McKellen, and also on BFI Player.