|Index||7 reviews in total|
I just saw this film at the SF Film Festival.
This film gives you an up close and personal experience of having someone in your family develop autism at a young age after seeming to be fine for their first few years of life. They have home movies that show him playing normally and interacting with the family. Then you see the changes in him and see what it's like to take a child to doctors and try to figure out what's wrong and how to help him.
This would be a heart wrenching tale except that this child develops an interest in Disney movies and the parents finally realize that these films are a way to connect with him. His life is entirely changed by that recognition and over time you see him at age 23 able to be an independent young adult.
The animation in the film is wonderful. The young man becomes a storyteller too, inspired by the Disney stories. This is a different kind of Disney film but I predict it will last for eternity alongside all the other Disney classics.
Kudos to all involved!
Director Roger Ross Williams shed light on the African evangelical
invasion in 'God Loves Uganda'. Openly admitting he needed to do
something a little more light-hearted for his next film, his latest
documentary, 'Life, Animated', is an entirely different project.
At the age of 3, Owen Suskind completely shut off from the world and became unable to communicate. His parents soon discovered that he had autism and may never be able to speak again, heartbroken at the thought of how the relationship with their son they had dreamed of may never fully exist. After trying many tactics with professional help, suddenly Owen became able to communicate through Disney animated movies. The exaggerated character movements and expressions became a tool for Owen to learn his language skills and be able to communicate his emotions. Through the trials of growing up, Owen used scenes and moments from Disney movies, such as 'Aladdin', 'The Jungle Book', and 'The Little Mermaid' to gain an understanding of how to express himself in situations he will experience. It's a touching and at times comedic success story.
Now at the age of 23, Owen is an incredible human being and a banner example of someone who has gone far beyond what people expect from a person with a severe disability. While the film does take a little long to get the momentum going, Owen's story quickly becomes extremely compelling. What makes his story so interesting is that as a 23-year-old he is going through a lot of the same situations that anyone experiences: finishing school, moving away from home, relationships, etc. How he goes about it is entirely different, and takes a few more steps, but the general trajectory is entirely universal.
The Disney element of the story serves as a gateway for us to gain a better understanding of autism and those affected by it, similar to how Disney has helped Owen to understand the rest of the world. The filmmakers follow Owen through numerous obstacles he faces in life which serve as the primary source of drama. Fortunately, he is such an engaging and charismatic protagonist that his life events are heart-warming and at times hilarious as well. The film successfully widens the understanding of an often mysterious mental state that so many people are affected by. Occasionally, top-tier documentaries can forgo the need to deliver a major message or inspire societal change in exchange for telling us a great human story, and giving us a broader understanding of the human condition: 'Life, Animated' is such a film.
For more, visit: www.cinemacy.com
Greetings again from the darkness. The magic of Disney takes on a whole
new meaning for Ron and Cornelia Suskind, and their son Owen. Academy
Award winning director Roger Ross Williams brings us the engaging story
inspired by Ron's best-selling book "Life, Animated: A Story of
Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism".
Ron, a well-respected journalist and writer, states ... at age 3, our son Owen "disappeared". Garbled talking and uneven walking took over their previously "normal" young son, and the doctor diagnosed "pervasive development disorder". When the word "autism" was spoken, Ron and Cornelia realized their lives, and Owen's, would never be the same.
Director Williams does an excellent job blending home movies, interviews and animation to give us a sense of what this family went through and what an emotional wonder it was one evening when they realized that Owen was actually repeating the line "Just your voice" while watching The Little Mermaid. This led to "the first conversation we've ever had" as dad used an Aladdin puppet to talk with Owen.
It turns out that Owen had memorized ALL of the dialogue from that Disney classic, as well as all of the other Disney animated movies. What unfolds for the family is an ability to communicate through these movies, and with therapy, move Owen into a more mainstream lifestyle speaking, reading, and writing. We get a peek at the professional therapy, as well as Owen leading his Disney club.
Much of the movie is structured to lead towards Owens independence at age 23 a job and his own condo (in an assisted-living building). It's interesting to hear the therapist discuss how the exaggerated features and emotions of the animated characters make it easier for Owen to interpret and understand the stories and characters stay the same providing a sense of security and sameness for him.
Owen's emotional range is on display with Emily (his first girlfriend) and his brother Walter (yep, can't make this stuff up). It's clear he understands the downside of independence (unpredictable life vs. scripted movies) while still leaning on his videos for the feel-good moments.
All parents have big dreams for what their kids might accomplish in life, but few parents are as thrilled and emotional as Ron and Cornelia when their son moves into his own place, and is later a featured speaker at a conference in France. Autism provides tremendous challenges for families and individuals, and if somehow animated Disney movies can provide life lessons and a forum for communication, then we should share in this family's rejoicing. As they say whatever works!
I love how art can be used as a tool to capture real life stories and I always love a story that affirms the important role films play in our lives and 'Life Animated' achieves this so brilliantly. I felt incredibly effected by Owens story at may points a little teary! This is testament to how well the journey is retold. The documentary creators, family and Owen gave me as an outsider an emotional insight into to a condition I'd never connected with or fully understood before. The animation sections within the film were breath taking and beautifully illustrated. The flow of the various mediums were well created as home videos would flow into animation that would flow into present day filming and I think it is this careful sequencing which makes the story so poignant to receive.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a wonderful film. So inspiring. Really, there are layers of
messages here for all of us.
The impact and importance of great parenting jumps right out at me for a start.
I won't go into much of it, bottom line- watch this film from beginning to end. It will stick with you.
I would love to encourage parents to watch this with their young teenage children. There are a number of subjects that could be opened up for discussion from this film.
Small spoiler- besides the obvious topics of valuing others as they are and embracing change- there is a big opportunity is to discuss with young people that disappointment often comes after first love. The majority of people do not spend their lives with their first love.
Owen's journey can bring some light to the idea that although everyday situations are even more challenging for him, he comes out on the other side stronger; still with a smile on his face and the will to grow and succeed.
Very heartwarming. I do see this film as a lovely gift. It is not just for kids, adults will enjoy it too.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Never wrote a review on here before, never felt compelled to....until now!! Life Animated is just mind blowing, i cried, i laughed the whole time. If you've had no exposure to Autism this is a must, even if you have, i promise you that you will come away from this film having learnt a great deal. Owen Suskind is the kind of human we should all aspire to be, although his condition makes it difficult for him to perceive 'reality' i don't think i've ever seen anyone who actually has more perspective on life than Owen. It's a stunning piece of motion picture and pulls and tugs on all of your emotions. I've come away with a greater insight into the condition, i have a cousin with extreme autism and it will help me and enable to communicate with him at a more understandable level for him. Please watch this movie, it's a must.
"Autism: If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well
enough." Albert Einstein
Until I saw the remarkably-affecting Life, Animated, I had an unclear idea of what autism is; now I feel I have expunged my prejudices and embraced it as a fascinating world. Given the right circumstances, and that condition is crucial, an autistic child may grow up into a well-functioning adult who carries with him a rich treasure of Disney inspirations.
Yes, I said Disney, for although this sometimes-animated documentary may feel like a Disney infomercial, there can be no doubt about the animations as essential to Owen's healthy response to the language of life. When as a very young boy he tells his parents his brother does not want to be Peter Pan or Mowgli, they realize he is seeing life through the Disney lens, opening up conversations that would never have happened if Owen had not memorized all the lines from the classic animations.
While this revelation about the transforming nature of Disney's work is astonishing, more stunning is the realization that Owen's parents and his brother give him unconditional love that is really the bedrock of his mental health. Dad, as a successful writer for The Wall Street Journal, and exceptionally caring mom promise a healthy, intelligent autistic child/adult.
For that very reason, Life, Animated and its director, Roger Ross Williams, together with original author Ron Suskind, offer an idyllic world cut to maximum lyrical effect. I suspect some other autistic kids may not have it so good. But, hey, I'm just beginning to understand autism, and it looks oh so promising under the aegis of the Suskind family and the mighty Disney.
"God created Autism to help offset the excessive number of boring people on earth." Unknown
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