Director: Petter Næss
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Radha Mitchell, Gary Cole, Sheila Kelley, Erica Leerhsen, John Carroll Lynch, Nate Mooney, Rusty Schwimmer, Robert Wisdom, Allen Evangelista, Kelly B. Eviston, Jhon Goodwin, Christa Campbell
Until recently, we only had a few films about individuals who were different. There were those which were "clearly stated", like Rain Man and some which were not so obvious like Benny & Joon and Harold and Maude.
Somewhere in the new millennium, things changed and "weird" characters became interesting. Personally, I blame the TV show "Monk" for starting the trend.
Since then there have been quite a few films and television series which focus on unique individuals including; Adam, Mary and Max, Napoleon Dynamite, House and The Big Bang Theory.
Had it been released during the "dry" period, Mozart and the Whale would have been a very impressive achievement but coming during a deluge of similar films, it's subject to comparison.
My first impression of this film is that the artist has used too broad a brush. It's as if the creative team found a book on autism and Aspergers syndrome and interpreted it literally.
Nearly all of the spectrum-dwelling characters in this film have all of the symptoms - and their characters are completely ruled by them.
Avoiding eye contact is translated as "acting like a vampire around a crucifix", unusual gait is translated as "running with.a major limp" and obsessive special interests is translated as "having no way to talk about anything else". Sure, we see similar kinds of behaviour in people with aspergers syndrome but usually, not all at once, not in a group and not to this extent.
There's no room for subtlety in this film.
I watched the film with my wife and just as I was finding the beginning unbearable (the cross-talking reaches overload point at times), she asked me to stop the film.
She told me that the film was making her very depressed and that she was worrying and thinking "what if our kids end up like that". I think that's where the real danger comes from in this film. It presents a very negative view of aspergers syndrome and in that sense, I feel that it does more harm than good.
Fortunately, after about the twenty minute mark, the film starts to settle. It raises some great points about acceptance and "fitting in" but doesn't adequately pursue them. When it ends all too abruptly, the audience is left with very little to go on.
It's not that I didn't like the film. I did. It's simply that it doesn't make the sort of impact that its cousins made. It's hard to tell whether its positive message about acceptance is worth the negative portrayal of life on the spectrum.
Watch with caution and don't automatically assume that it paints a picture of your child's life as an adult.
Honesty Clause: I wasn't provided with this film but went out an bought it on DVD. Then re-encoded the thing because the DVD didn't have a subtitle track, so I had to download one and add it in myself. There's really no excuse for that sort of oversight.