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LIFE, ANIMATED | Movie Review – Tribeca Film Festival 2016

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LIFE, ANIMATED | © 2016 The Orchard

Autism has, is, and forever will be one of the most debated and discussed mental disorders in existence. Complex in so many ways, whatever it is that triggers it really hasn’t been nailed down to a science. Tons of speculations are out there (that’s another topic you can research yourself), but as a whole, breakthroughs of sorts have advanced in past years. Even though there isn’t a definitive way to “understand” someone with autism, the fact is there are ways that allow both loved-ones (like myself) and those with the disorder (my loving brother) to communicate and obtain other forms of normalcy in our lives. The most amazing thing is what we least expect always winds up providing the best results. A blessing of sorts for lack of a better term.

Inspired by Ron Suskind’s New York Times Bestseller about his son (Owen) titled “Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism,” LIFE, ANIMATED is one of those informative documentaries that provides a glance at a harsh, long road out of an abyss within the mind of one of autism’s victims that morphs into a world of fantasy-based progress. The film tells the story of Owen Suskind, an autistic young man who was unable to speak as a child until he discovered a unique way to connect with the world by immersing himself in the world of classic, animated Disney films.

With a focal point that stems from Owen’s graduation and taking his first steps towards independence, it’s the structured stories from his mom, dad, brother, and others who serve as a support-unit that elevates this engaging film. Life for Owen wasn’t, isn’t, and won’t be easy, but the meshing of scenes from various Disney classics exposes his magical ways of finding useful tools to help him understand complicated social issues and communicate with his surroundings. Adding to Disney charm, vibrant and original animations offer a unique look into Owen’s own dialogue with Disney as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks.

As a whole, touching, educational and quite inspirational would be the best way to describe this gem of a film. Being able to relate is what made this documentary extremely wonderful for me (personally), as I’m sure it will for others. The exposure of anything in life being possible is clearly an understatement. Autism is a serious dilemma for millions of families from all over the world, but no matter how impactful, there’s always hope. LIFE, ANIMATED is the perfect source material for its complexity as its miracle moment shines the brightest light among the darkest of situations. Other than once again exposing how Disney is able to captivate the mind of a child, the greatest accomplishment about this documentary is it takes a person whose mind has been biologically tampered with and allows us to view his world, only looking out at the one we gradually live in. 


Grade: A / Genre: Documentary / Run Time: 1:32

Directed by: Roger Ross Williams

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