Male and Female
Meet Owen Suskind. He is a very compassionate and funny young man who talks to himself while pacing up and down the classroom. He walks with his chin down, he has Disney posters and figurines decorating his room, he rewinds and replays his old Disney VHS tapes while mimicking the dialogue, he always has constant noise running through his brain, he has had a girlfriend for three years despite having never understood the concept of sex, he never wants to grow up, and he wishes to be independent of his parents and supporters. What makes the ultimate goal difficult for him is his Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition that affects his social progress into adulthood.
Life: Animated tells the tear-jerking true story of Owen with such compelling realism that successfully kept me, another autistic, sitting still in my seat with my eyes glued to the screen the entire hour and a half.
Owen’s story is told through himself, his loving parents, and his supportive older brother, Walt. Each one was affected by Owen’s journey in different ways, and each one influenced Owen’s journey in their own ways.
Mom and dad tell about when he essentially vanishes at age three, losing all motor and language skills along with the ability to sleep well. A diagnosis quickly follows, confirming that their son is indeed autistic. They wonder if their son would ever speak to them again from behind his social prison.
But eventual progress comes by from the most unlikely source: their son’s obsession with Disney movies. He learns how to read from watching the films’ opening credits, he learns how to speak by repeating the dialogue through Echolalia, and dad starts his first real conversation with his son through an Iago puppet, a parrot from the movie, Aladdin.
Director Roger Ross Williams adds a great deal to the already emotional journey of Owen, complete with home videos and isolating graphite sketches to illustrate the key moments of the family’s life. Even more, clips of Disney films are appropriately spliced in to communicate all of Owen’s feelings, and a story he writes springs to life by a poetic animation of watercolors. Through these ambitious achievements in editing, Williams gives the closest glimpse anyone could have to what goes on in the autistic mind.
As an autistic myself, I can call Life: Animated a successful survey of a true story of a man who overcame challenges using the thing he’s most passionate about. His story proves to us all how even a sidekick to the hero is every bit as brave and courageous, including anybody who feels socially incapable of living life to its fullest. The end result after leaving the theater is a satisfied feeling of hope for the weak and the strong, which overcomes any feelings of devastation.
Owen Suskind is exactly the type of man I would like to meet someday. It’s not just because he seems like such a funny and imaginative human being on screen, but because his life journey is so frighteningly close to my own, right down to the Disney obsession. Just like Owen, I too would talk to myself by reciting movie quotes from memory, most likely out of nervousness. Also like Owen, I feel absolutely terrified by what the future holds, maybe even more so than the average person my age.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #79: Sometimes the Small Changes are Hardest.
Growing up is hard, which everybody knows by experience, but what makes it much more intimidating for Owen and myself is the idea of independence. It’s not that we don’t want to be independent, it’s just the possibility of not knowing what to do in a given situation when mom and dad aren’t there to help. In Owen’s case, Disney movies right from the start were there to give him a mode of coping. As everything around him is always changing, the Disney movies stay the same. From there, he started a Disney club at his school, where he would teach the other students about the lessons taught in the movies.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #12: They May Have Very Obsessive Interests.
I was much this same way. Although I do still have a lifelong obsession with Disney movies, it was not my mode of learning new things. But I did learn from an array of other interests throughout my childhood. One of the more abstract ones was how the Nickelodeon television series Drake & Josh taught me how to dress. It’s kind of a long story, and it’s a little complicated to explain how, but it essentially started when I was watching the show’s opening theme, which composed of various scenes throughout the season edited together along with the theme song. Many scenes were obvious which episodes they came from, but others were from cut scenes. I so badly wanted to know which scenes were in which episode, and what the different scenes meant in-context of its episode, so I took initiative to watch and analyze each individual episode of the series, keeping track of the actors’ wardrobes and seeing which ones matched the actors’ wardrobe in a scene from the opening theme. Naturally, it gave me a mentality of keeping track of what actors were wearing, and thus I developed a greater awareness of how to coordinate clothing. Today, I can go shopping and dress myself without my mom’s help (which says a lot considering she’s a wardrobe consultant).
This is why I so strongly encourage this important documentary for everyone’s awareness of autism. People need to understand that autism is not a disability or a prison, it is another way of looking at the world. They are no more disabled or weak than anyone else, because we all have weaknesses that hold us back from being perfect. That is what my blog is all about: encouraging that truth through hope.
- If you have autistic children, keep track of his/her obsessions. Think of ways you can use that obsession to help your child learn other skills, similar to the examples given from both Owen and myself.
- If you are autistic yourself, don’t be ashamed of how your mind works: it is beautiful and unique. The more you share what happens in your mind, the more people will be amazed by who you are.
- Don’t ever look down on anyone with autism or anything that would hold them back. Seeing this movie can prove how much of an advantage autism can offer.
If there is a specific movie in my Review List you’d like me to do an autism lesson on, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!