Based on Gigi & Nate’s recently-released trailer, the film promises to be a tear-jerker. It centers on Nate (Charlie Rowe), a teenager whose life changes after surviving a near-fatal illness that leaves him a quadriplegic. A year into his ordeal, his mom introduces him to an unusual service animal, a capuchin monkey.
In the trailer, we see Gigi and Nate develop a strong bond as the world frowns upon the unusual partnership. “Moving forward seems impossible until he meets his unlikely service animal, named Gigi – a curious and intelligent capuchin monkey – who helps Nate find what he needs most: hope.”
The film is based on a true story of a quadriplegic and a capuchin monkey
As unusual as it sounds, Gigi & Nate is based on a true story. However, we are unaware of the specific monkey-human pairing that inspired the film.
From 1979 to 2020, Boston-based Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled paired monkeys with people with disabilities. The monkeys, often the super-intelligent capuchin species, bonded with their humans and became their helpers.
The monkeys helped people with paraplegia and quadriplegia perform all manner of tasks in return for love, care, and the occasional lick of peanut butter or hummus.
Helping Hands trained monkeys to bond with people and perform various tasks at home. Angela Lett, a spokesperson for Helping Hands, told Time: “Their education is all based on positive reinforcement. Trainers will ring a bell and say ‘good job’ when a monkey gets a skill right.”
Humans and their monkeys often develop tight bonds, but sadly, such pairings can’t last forever. In the trailer, we see Gigi taken away from Nate. Separations happen when the human dies or the monkey ages out of work.
Helping Hands halted its monkey-pairing program in 2020. “Our mission has shifted to focusing on quality support for all our post-service monkeys in a state-of-the-art care facility,” their website reads. The organization plans to use technology rather than animals to help people living with disabilities.
It’s unclear which monkey-human pairing inspired Gigi & Nate. We might have to wait until the film’s premiere in early September 2022 to find out.