Short Film Profile

Patient 39

Patient 39 enters hospital with a serious head wound, an unknown soldier with no memory and only a fragmented sense of self and of the world around him. Under Moran’s compassionate care, he slowly starts to recover and so begins a search for his identity and past. As the engimas of Patient 39's identity start to unravel, a gentle friendship blossoms between patient and doctor. Unlike Moran, who clings to scientific precision, Patient 39 lives in his imagination, moved by beauty and the power of images. Inspired by their friendship, Moran begins to see the world in a new kind of way.

Film notes

Set in a British military hospital during World War Two, Patient 39 is the simple but moving story of the relationship between Doctor Moran and a wounded soldier known only as Patient 39.

Patient 39 is a warm, cinematic story focusing on the relationship between a doctor and his patient. Reading William Boyd’s short story, I was both touched and intrigued by the predicament of a man who wakes without a memory or any sense of who he is. I was struck by how the fragmentation of Patient 39’s senses as he wakes from his coma makes us think about our own sense of consciousness – of what it is to be alive, to be aware, to be ‘me’.
Told in the form of Moran’s medical case notes, the film’s tone of voice is at first scientific. By telling the story of a character with a serious brain injury, it takes us to that enigmatic interface between body and mind, to the mysteries of consciousness, memory and personal identity - mysteries at the heart of modern bio-medical science.

But for me the real heart of the film is to be found in how the rigorous scientific outlook Moran has always relied upon is called into question through the quiet friendship that grows as he cares for his patient. As Moran gets to know Patient 39, so he begins to change, as his eyes are opened to a very different sense of the imagination, of beauty, and of self-awareness.

Through that simple but elegiac journey, it is not just that Moran learns something about himself - we learn something about ourselves too.

Dan Clifton
science neuroscience historical




Copyright © 2013 Atomium Films Ltd.

Details of awards for this film are available to members.

Log in

Previous screenings

4 Oct – 11 Oct | Tralee, Ireland
6 Nov – 9 Nov | York, United Kingdom
9 Jun – 10 Jun | Los Angeles, United States

Film details

Dialogue languages

Subtitle languages


Aspect ratio

Additional details, including film categories, dialogue/subtitle languages and technical details are available to members.

Log in

More details & images available to members
Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 16 Jul 2013