DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Life, Animated

Director - Roger Ross Williams - 2016

"Dirty gem"
What if cinema was the only means of communication between a young boy and the rest of his family? Sobering doc sheds light on the saga of an autistic child who loves Disney

Life, Animated is a documentary about a child, Owen Suskind, whose biggest passion are Disney films. By the age of three, Owen’s parents realised that their second son had some sort of disability. He was not sleeping, his motor skills were deteriorating and his language acquisition had changed to the point he became silent. The diagnosis was autism — the cruel reality is that some autistic kids never get their speech back. The world is too intense for them and instead they simply disengage from social life.

The Suskind family then found out that watching Disney movies was the only thing they could do together as a family. And that continued for many years, until one day Owen picked up three words of a cartoon and spoke up. Parents were thrilled, but they never knew for real if Owen meant to communicate something or if he was just parroting the film.

Autism is a prison. What we learn from Life, Animated is that sufferers of the condition do want to connect with other people, and finding a way of doing that is an uphill struggle.

Director Roger Ross Williams (God Loves Uganda, from 2013) returns with a masterful film about how one close-knit family navigates life with autism. Ross knew the Suskind family for many years, because he had worked with Owen’s father as journalists in a newspaper. Even though Ross was close to the family, he still had to face the challenge of how to interview Owen, now 23. So he hid the camera inside the TV set.

Ross uses animation in order to recreate Owen’s childhood. The film viewers witness significant changes in the child’s routine via cartoons. Owen primarily identified himself with Peter Pan, the Disney character who didn’t want to grow up. He often draw secondary characters. At the time he was bullied at school, he repeatedly watched Bambi, as if saying: “I’m vulnerable, just like the Disney character”.

Eventually, Owen learned how to interact and insert comments of his own in small conversations. Through the years, he graduated from a school for special need teens. He even organised a Disney Club for his colleagues, in which he himself would present the films.

The film documents Owen’s progress as well as shortcomings. Life, Animated is an emotional register of social inclusion. Ross shows people with special needs are not stuck in uni-dimensional existence. By the end of the movie, Owen is facing situations that were not scripted in Disney movies. He now articulates responses to the challenges of adult life as well as manages to comprehend the limitations of happiness. That is the verve of living.

The film was part of both the Sundance London Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier this year. The film is out in cinemas on Friday, December 9th.

Watch the film trailer below:



"Dirty gem"

By Maysa Monção - 05-06-2016

By Maysa Monção - 05-06-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who cu...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
What happens when an independent female filmmaker with [Read More...]
Fifty years have passed since students joined forces [Read More...]

Read More

Amin

Philippe Faucon
2019

Redmond Bacon - 17-06-2019

The harshness and poetry of immigrant life is empathetically rendered in this quiet slice-of-life drama about the power of human connection under difficult constraints - in cinemas Friday, June 21st [Read More...]

Jellyfish exposes Britain as a disingenuous dystopia

 

Paul Risker - 17-06-2019

Dirty writer Paul Risker argues that James Gardner’s feature debut is a scathing social and political indictment, bursting their proverbial bubble of a utopian dream of British unity [Read More...]

Only You

Harry Wootliff
2019

Victor Fraga - 16-06-2019

Young couple grapples with IVF while attempting to keep the spark in their relationship alive, in this heartfelt yet emotionally draining British drama - in cinemas and on demand Friday, July 12th [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *