On December 8, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), the 43-year-old editor of ElleFrance magazine and a wealthy Parisian socialite, suffered a massive stroke which decimated his brain stem. When he awoke almost three weeks later, he found he was mute, and with the exception of his left eye, completely paralyzed. It was a rare condition the doctors referred to as "locked-in syndrome" — the body is completely useless while the mind is active and engaged.
Unable to communicate except by blinking his eye once for yes and twice for no, Bauby's devoted physical therapist Henriette (Marie-Josée Croze) devises an ingenious if tedious method of rudimentary communication. By arranging the letters of the alphabet on a chart with those used most frequently at the top and those used least near the bottom, Bauby blinks in response to hearing the desired letter read off, and with agonizingly sluggishness and incalculable patience on the part of both reader and the responder, his mind begins to emerge. His first words since the accident are simply: "I want death."
Gradually Bauby comes to accept his fate and when he does, his words pour forth. Contracted for a modern retelling of Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo at the time of his debilitating accident, Bauby lets it be known that he intends to fulfill his obligation. His publisher dispatches Claude (Anne Consigny), a woman of breathtaking patience, who sits with Bauby nearly every day, building what becomes a personal memoir about captivity and freedom out of mere sentences a day. The book took roughly 200,000 blinks to dictate, each word taking approximately two minutes to convey. Bauby would spend his evenings composing and editing the book entirely in his head, and dictate ...1