Set during WWII, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a German concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.
KYLE'S MOTHER: "What, you staring at a disabled child having a fit? I agree!"
Kyle is a lost cause. Born with a very severe case of autism, he can barely communicate... apart from repeating parrot-like what he hears. He often rehashes these phrases in the most inappropriate situations, much to the amusement of everyone except his mum and dad. He throws random temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. He still wears nappies at the age of 6. He has no comprehension of the emotional needs of others. His only outlet in life is his obsession with trains.
His parents are at their wits end. They've sent him to a special needs day school, but progress is frustratingly slow. The father wants to pack him off to a specialist unit 5 days and nights a week, but mother is desperate for him to have a chance in the real world. Mum is sick of having no social life, while dad is seriously considering an affair with a family friend. Things look bleak. Then, they decide to get a dog... And everything changes.
After Thomas is a wonderful film, the best I've seen this year so far. Every detail, from the little picture cards Kyle has to examine to understand what he has to do, to his tendency to walk up and down in a straight line for hours, rings true. The little actor they have to play this part is perfect. This is no sugar-coated Hollywoodised view of a handicap... living with this child is a chore, and would test the patience of a saint.
Then along comes Thomas, named after Kyle's favourite Tank Engine. He doesn't really bond with the canine straightaway... but gradually, an eternal friendship is forged. Thomas helps him open up, and what started out as a hopeless situation becomes a journey of discovery for him and his parents, as they see more and more of their son every day. The scene where he calls them Mum and Dad for the first time is such a tearjerker, you'll want to reach for the toilet paper product that Thomas's breed also advertises.
Few films earn the title Life Affirming. This one surely does. 8/10
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