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Louis Theroux: Extreme Love - Autism (2012)

Louis travels to DLC Warren in New Jersey, an innovative autism school.

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Louis travels to DLC Warren in New Jersey, an innovative autism school.

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school | parent | tantrum | autism | See All (4) »

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19 April 2012 (UK)  »

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Flawed film but does clearly show the challenges of living with autism in the family
14 August 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I have been watching quite a few Herzog documentaries of late so I'll be honest and say it took me a little while to break from that mould and get into the pace and style with which Theroux approaches his films. Here he focuses on a handful of families who have a child with autism – a condition that 1 in 100 children have. Theroux is not quite a sharp knife when it comes to his style and accordingly the film is quite gentle, sitting back and observing in a friendly non-threatening fashion. We see children that range from the awkward, through to the incredibly difficult and with several in between.

The film shows the challenges really well, with the best of the subjects still being odd and awkward – a real nice kid for sure, but you know (and he knows) that he will always be on the edge of society no matter what he does. For the most difficult ones were the children who were nearly non-responsive who would appear to be fine one minute and the next be screaming and punching and it surprised me to see how out-of- nowhere it was. The film captures all this and really Theroux himself doesn't really have a chance to do his normal thing because he can't charm and small talk into these children's lives the way he often would. This is OK because really the footage of the children is still engaging to see this world, but I guess it probably only works if you are a stranger to this world as I am. When it comes to the parent's Theroux can do his thing but doesn't push too much – he says how much he admires them and you can see this in how gently he handles them. With one couple he prods a little and gets tears and openness but in terms of the film he could have done more with the interviews.

As such the film is worth seeing as a series of real-life examples of what it mean to live with a child with autism. The impact is immense, even in less severe cases and I did have a real admiration for those families who have had to deal with it – whether it means looking after their own children or putting them in a home, emotionally it is draining and although this film isn't perfect, it does show that clearly.


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