Does Manny Have a Speaking Disability in Bruised?

Image Credit: John Baer/ Netflix

‘Bruised’ follows the story of MMA fighter Jackie Justice, who struggles through a dark period in her life after a devastating defeat crushes her career. With a shot at the title being her only ray of hope, Jackie begins to train towards it in earnest, only to then have her plans turned upside down by the arrival of her estranged son Manny.

Possibly one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this emotional sports drama is the young boy’s character, who remains silent even as he and his mother struggle through harrowing circumstances. The boy also comes with a traumatic past and is brought to Jackie because his father can no longer care for him. So what has happened to Manny’s father? And why doesn’t the young boy speak? Let’s get to know Jackie’s son Manny a little better.

Does Manny Have a Speaking Disability?

Manny doesn’t speak for almost the entirety of the film. From the time the boy shows up on Jackie’s doorstep, he remains wordless and unsmiling, silently watching all that goes on around him. Surrounded by unpleasant circumstances and at the mercy of a mother struggling with alcoholism and self-loathing, Manny refuses to speak even when Jackie tries to help him. When asked to nod, the young boy doesn’t react as he chooses not to communicate despite understanding what is being said to him.

From the way the film ends, we can decipher that Manny doesn’t have a speaking disability. This is also hinted through videos of his childhood that Jackie discovers, in which her son merrily sings along with his father. Manny’s continued silence is a reaction to the traumatic surroundings he suddenly finds himself in. Having never properly met his mother (and being told by his father that she’s dead), the boy feels like an unwanted appendage. The abusive behavior of Jackie’s boyfriend Desi, who is furious at having to take care of the young boy, further forces Manny to essentially make himself invisible, too scared and confused to even utter a word.

Is Little’s Father Dead?

When Manny first turns up at Jackie’s doorstep, he is silent. Hence, the boy has already been through a traumatic experience, which seems to have resulted in him being brought to live with his estranged mother. Jackie’s mother explains Manny’s presence by telling the shocked MMA fighter that her former husband, Manny’s father, was shot in the head while working undercover. Though not too much else is divulged about the death, a crucial and devastating detail (which Jackie’s mother delivers offhandedly) is that Manny watched his father getting shot.

Since witnessing the horrific tragedy, Manny has remained mute, and now, finding himself in a strange, new environment and feeling unwanted, the boy continues to stay silent. The nickname that Jackie gives her son, Little, is her way of explaining to him that it is ok to feel afraid and that she (nicknamed Big) will take care of him. Since he doesn’t react to any of her words, Jackie cannot initially decipher what her son is feeling. She, therefore, resorts to these simple names to try and convince him that he is loved and protected, even though the world around him seems chaotic and unfriendly.

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