LIFE, ANIMATED – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Over the years I have seen hundreds of documentaries.  Once or twice a year I see one that really resonates with me.  Life, Animated really resonates with me.  Why?  Because the subject is one I am truly interested in. 
This film follows Owen Suskind, age 23, as he completes his final weeks of school and moves from his parent’s home into his own place.  Why is this so important?  Owen is autistic.  He was fine in the first years of his life but in his third year he began to experience developmental issues with his speech.  His speech began to be mixed up.  His family could not understand what he was trying to say.  Per Owen, it went both ways, what he was hearing was not understandable.
Owen has an amazing family.  Dad, Ron, is Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who worked for the Wall Street Journal.  Mom, Cornelia, was and is a stay-at-home mom.  Owen also has an older brother, Johnathan.  They are all so supportive of Owen, it is very heart-warming.
For a long time the family was worried that Owen would never be able to deal with the world.  One of the things they had done since the kids were very young was watch all of the Disney animated movies.  The young Owen continued watching the films even after the problems began to develop.  When the family finally figured out that Owen’s outburst was a line from Aladdin they were ecstatic!  From the first line, his progression was nothing short of amazing. 
Along the way Owen develops some amazing coping mechanisms.  His life is not easy.  His abilities include an amazing memory for every line of dialog from each and every Disney animated film.  He also has a wonderful ability to draw, mainly the sidekicks from all of the films he loves.  How he uses those skills is worth the price of this show.
This is an uplifting story.  The film, made from the book written by Owen’s father, Ron, follows the highs and the lows of the young man’s life.  The flow of the film is paced to give us a chance to digest each plateau.  As the family members talk about each advance that Owen makes, we are shown what happened along the way.  This gives us a view into what a family experiences when one of their members is diagnosed as being in the autistic spectrum.
What many, if not most, people don’t take into consideration is the toll that the condition can take on a family.  I have been fortunate enough to work with people who help families like the Suskind’s deal with autism. Watching how each member of the Suskind family doesn’t just deal with the problem but meets it head-on with love and caring was wonderful.
This is a film that people should see.  They will learn something about autism that they didn’t know.  And see the truly human side of it.
Directed by: Roger Ross Williams
Cast: Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried, Owen Suskind, Ron Suskind
MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements, and language including a suggestive reference)
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 91 Min.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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