by Debra Muzikar
I wrote this blog in 2014 and we have some newer blogs about what is streaming on Netflix as of April 2016.
Last weekend I had the pleasure to watch two diverse and worthwhile movies on Hulu streaming: Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic (2010) and The Story of Luke (2012). I believe they are also available on Netflix streaming.
Loving Lampposts is an ambitious documentary which covers many of the controversies surrounding autism, including the vaccination debate, genetics vs. environment, medical issues, and the controversy between the neurodiversity movement and the organizations who are invested in finding a cure for autism. Even though it was made four years ago, it’s a relevant film.
The film maker, Todd Drezner, begins the movie with his son Sam playing around a street lamppost. Sam is a cute little boy on the autism spectrum. Drezner speculates his son’s obsession with lampposts may be because he finds comfort in keeping things the same; the inanimate lamppost is a stable structure in Sam’s world. Sam has trouble bonding with other kids his age because they can be unpredictable unlike the lamppost.
Drezner has done his homework and created a compelling film. He’s interviewed many people including the so-called “experts:” behaviorists, physicians, researchers, and parents. The film is peppered with alarmist calamity news stories from television about the “epidemic” of autism.
Counteracting the news stories, are interviews with Autistic people such as Dr. Stephen Mark Shore, Sharisa Koshmeister, performance artist Johnny Seitz, and Barbara Moran. They represent a broad-range of ages and abilities, both female and male. One woman who was especially compelling was an Autistic woman who directs academic research about autism. She also uses a communication device to speak. Drezner addresses the debate about the definition of high-functioning. The woman is obviously intelligent yet cannot speak. Being mistaken as unintelligent is often a problem for non-verbal people.
Drezner interviews many parents, including those who are fixated on curing their children. He makes a point that most parents want what’s best for their children. One parent who has used Floor Time as an intervention said her family began to heal when she learned to live in the moment, follow her child’s lead, and got rid of her own agenda. Floor Time is an intervention which follows the child’s lead. The movie is well-balanced yet is sympathetic to those parents who don’t try to “normalize” behavior. As the mom stated, her journey with her son became less about changing behaviors and more about creating a relationship.
The movie shows how many parents have taken their journey and created better futures for Autistic people and their families by blogging, lecturing, writing books, and creating nonprofits. Parent Estee Klar has created a project called The Autism Acceptance Project. She’s a friend on facebook but I don’t think I’ve looked at her website for a while. Her project also features artists on the autism spectrum. The cover art for the website is a joint art piece by Jonathan Lerman and Larry Bissonnette.
I found this movie to be informative and compelling for those who have a broad knowledge about autism and for those who may be new to the journey.
The second movie I watched last weekend was a humorous movie filled with pathos – The Story Of Luke. This fictionalized movie is about an autistic young man who has been raised by his grandparents. His mom abandoned him because of his autism when he was four. The movie begins on the day of his grandmother’s funeral. Luke sits by himself in the church. As the mourners fill the pews, Luke can’t take their chatter anymore and let’s out a blood curdling scream.
Luke’s grandmother has done an exceptional job of instilling in Luke pride about his differences. “My grandma took me out of a special school because they treated me like an idiot,” he says to his aunt Cindy who is Luke’s foil in the movie. “Am I a bitch?” Cindy asks Luke. Luke answers in his usual honest fashion. “Brad [her son] says you’re a total bitch and Meagan [her daughter] says you’re a psycho bitch.” Luke and Cindy are able to bond when Cindy discovers Luke is an exceptional cook. The entire family is pleased as Cindy’s cooking leaves much to be desired.
Luke has two goals. One is to find a job and the other is to find a girlfriend so he can “screw.” His grandfather teaches Luke that he should say “make love” instead of “screw.”
Luke does meet his first goal. He starts a non-paying job at a computer company. He’s able to navigate the office delivering mail to the employees. His boss, the owner’s son, Zack, is an Aspie techie. Zack seems to have many more issues than Luke. “The people noise gets so bad I want to scream,” Zack states. His dad has created a sound-proof room so Zack’s screams won’t disturb the other employees. Zack takes Luke under his wing and uses sophisticated emulation software to teach Luke how to be more like a “NT” (neuro-typical), so Luke can attract his dream girl, a young woman with “pretty breasts” who works at the employment agency where he goes to find a job. She kindly declines Luke’s advances. This causes Luke distress but in the end he decides it’s her loss. “My family says I’m a catch,” he tells her.
Many people in the movie grow and change through their interactions with Luke. The movie made me laugh and cry. It was a delightful portrayal of a quirky, autistic character who faces huge changes in his life. The characters he meets are not condescending, easy, or trained in autism yet he finds a way to navigate. I notice on the film website this movie has won many awards at film festivals and I can see why. It’s filmmaker Alonso Mayo’s first full-length feature film.
I would love to see more movies on Hulu and Netflix with Autistic characters. Last year I reviewed two autism movies on Netflix Wretches and Jabberers and Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon. They aren’t on Hulu streaming at this time.
Have you seen A Boy Called Po? It is on Netflix and won many best film and actor awards…including best film and best actor at AutFest 2017.
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