Seldom have I been able to find it harder to start talking about a movie. Then again, seldom have I had an emotional response than the one I had when I first saw Life, Animated, clearly one of the best films of the year.
It is a documentary of Owen Suskind. He, along with interviews of his parents and older brother Walt, tells what it is like living with autism. We learn he was diagnosed at age 3, and was virtually quiet most of his childhood. His only time he was social was when he would watch Disney movies with the family.
The movie does not bore us with the facts we could find online about autism, or spend too much time talking to doctors and researchers. We just get a glimpse at the life of an extraordinary mind that (like others on the spectrum) see the world in a totally different way.
I guess there is no way around it: I should mention that I myself am autistic (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome back in High School).My escape as a kid was movies, and I can still remember the covers of every Disney film we owned (I moved on to more than Disney films. I assume it was to broaden my horizon.) There is a part in this movie where Cornelia (Owen’s mom) says how, while the world changes (believe me, change is very difficult for people with autism), the movies stay the same. I could not have put it better myself.
Parents, there is one awkward reference made in the film by Owen’s older brother Walt. It is about how to get Owen to learn about sex (being that he watches only Disney movies, obviously nothing more happens past the kiss). Aside from that reference, and some occasional swearing, the movie’s ok for Middle School and up.
While it may be obvious, I feel it should still be noted that not everyone with autism is the same. Those that have it have varying degrees. Nevertheless, if Life, Animated is not the best movie about what it is like living with autism (with the possible exception of Rain Man) , I have yet to see it.
Overall: Five Stars *****