Another title could have been: “you didn’t make a film about autism, you made a film about everything but autism” but that seemed a little unwieldy. So many sub-plots that took time away from developing the main character’s story and so many of them seemed superfluous to the development of the plot and to Nathan’s story. To channel Chandler from Friends a little “so many sub-plots, must focus narrative.”
This is more a rant then a review really. That’s 112 minutes of my life I’m never getting back, I wish I had gone to see Suite Francaise instead or better yet stayed at home and watched Wolfsburg v Inter. There are so many things that infuriated me about the film, I’m so angry that I can’t remember all of them. It was everything I expected it to be, based on seeing the trailer and that is not a good thing. Inaccurate in terms of the autism stuff, clichéd, sickly sweet, over emotional nonsense to sum it up.
Not only did it not seem to focus on Nathan who was meant to be the main character but they somehow managed to avoid using the word autism throughout the entire film, the one occasion the word autistic was used it was in a derogatory way. Instead he was “on the spectrum” or “had super-powers” And when his roommate Luke asked him he merely said, “I take it you’ve been diagnosed?” I can’t work out the writer’s aversion to the word, why it was unspeakable.
The only scenes in the film worth watching are the ones that involve Luke, two in particular the one where he tries to use a joke from one of his TV shows to fit in with the group and the conversation mentioned above. In the latter scene, he makes an excellent point about how it’s ok to be autistic or different in some way, as long as you are a genius to go with it. His parents probably meant well when they told him it was ok to be different, people usually do, but the people who tell you that, they don’t have to deal with being you.
Being a genius isn’t enough for people to accept you, as referred to in the title, there seems to be a good kind of autistic and a bad kind. The good kind is like Nathan, smart and a little awkward but mostly quiet and pliable. One who goes along with what neuro-typicals want, one who doesn’t actively try to fit in and belong, they want you to conform on the surface but not to try to be one of them. The bad kind doesn’t go along with how NTs think things should be done, they don’t mind having an opinion that differs from the norm. It seems to bug certain kinds of people, they can’t understand why someone may not want to be a part of the group. Of course that’s irrelevant here because Luke did want to belong, he wanted badly to have friends and to be part of something. His parents had done right in a way by telling him that it was ok to be himself but they had failed him in the sense that they hadn’t helped him obtain the skills he needed to be a part of the world. If an autistic person really is happy by themselves then of course it’s wrong to force them to socialise, but if they do want friends then their parents should be helping them to gain the necessary skills.
The scene in question when it was used in a derogatory manner also involved Luke, Isaac said: “he’s obviously autistic except he has all of the bad traits, obsessive and socially incompetent and none of the good ones.”
I wonder what does Issac consider to the good traits of autism.
So they know he has autism and they know what areas his difficulties lie in, yet they still bully him for those very things. Also they too are obsessive, they are the ones who have talked about nothing but maths the whole time, they even rap about maths and their social skills aren’t that fantastic either, they aren’t at all good at dealing with people who don’t agree with them or who are different to them in some way.
The scene which dealt with Nathan’s diagnosis was even more troublesome, “he’s on the spectrum with traits of autism and synaesthesia.” No, just no, if you have traits then that’s all you have, only people who have autism are on the spectrum, you either have it or you don’t. And the way his parents handled it was just horrid, the scene where his father talked it over with him demonstrates yet another example of their refusal to use the word autism: “do you know anyone else who has what you have?”
Nathan answers Einstein; well first of all it’s not possible to say definitively that he was autistic. Second of all that line is just awful, why would you not say autism there “has what you have”, that’s a really awkward phrasing and for no reason at all. He could have said “do you know anyone else like you?” which would have been less awkward and more naturalistic.
The writing was awful in every respect; actually the film was awful in every respect, the worst clichés of sport movies mixed with the worst sickly sweet drama clichés, and a bunch of autism stereotypes mixed in for good measure.
I’m so sick of films about autism that have characters that are emotionally disconnected, don’t like to be touched, don’t have any understanding of emotions, have little interest in interacting with other people and worst of all who are good at maths.
Another source of annoyance throughout the film was his mother, in particular the scene where he was playing with sparklers with his father. Right in front of him, she comments that he’s allowing his father to hold his hand. You do know he can hear and understand you right? It makes me wonder, what is it with parents and their obsession with physical contact, why are they always obsessing over the fact that their child doesn’t hug them or like physical contact? Do you think you have some kind of right to it, would you be making such a big deal if you had a NT child who did not like any kind of physical contact?
It always infuriates me in films like this when towards the end they show the autistic character allowing some kind of physical contact, as if the only problem was finding someone who loved them or them being able to trust someone. It’s usually sensory issues that result in a person disliking physical contact, all the love in the world isn’t going to resolve that.
The other issue with the character of his mother was the relationship between her and the maths teacher, it served no purpose in the overall narrative I thought, it just served as just another distraction from what was meant to be the main story. It seemed as if the writer had gotten bored of Nathan and so decided to pad out the film with the sub-plots. Halfway through it’s as if they discovered what a dull and uninteresting character Nathan was, truthfully the film would have been more interesting with Luke as the protagonist.
So overall not impressed at all, not in terms of the representation of autism and not as a film in it’s own right. But then there are so few good films about autism, there’s an ever increasing number of them but very few that are any good. I wonder what makes a writer decide to create an autistic character or to write a story centered around one, what is the source of their interest and fascination, and why do so many of them get it so badly wrong?