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Autism: The Musical (2007)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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The Bottom Line

Tricia Regan's moving documentary shows how Elaine Hall adopted an autistic child, then got divorced and found herself in need of an occupation. She chose special ed, a profession that allowed her to help her son as much as possible, and founded the Miracle Project, a workshop for autistic kids and their parents. As the kids learn to work and play with each other, we learn about them. Their intelligence, humor and perceptiveness are revelations. We see their parents' angst-clad determination to make the best lives possible for their kids.
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Pros

  • Getting to know these kids and seeing the range of their abilities is fascinating.
  • An inspiring film showing how Elaine Hall reinvents herself to help her autistic son.
  • Autism is on the rise. This film reveals the hard facts a very gentle, moving way.

Cons

  • The title is misleading--the film isn't really about the musical, In fact, we don't see much of it.

Description

  • Neal and Wyatt find each other and become great friends. Wyatt expresses his relief to have someone to communicate with.
  • Lexi's mom, Roseanne, reveals the anger, disappointment, frustration and fear her daughter's condition causes her to feel.
  • The kids meet the challenge, but how they will fare in the future, when Elaine and their parents aren't taking care of them?

Guide Review - Autism: The Musical (2007)

Right up front, the film gives us the stats: in 1980, one out of 10,000 children were autistic, now it's one in 150. Shocking. But this film doesn't hammer home the need to find a cure. The message is presented in a much more subtle, much wiser and, ultimately, much more effective. Not that it's easy to watch these kids--they behave strangely, they have inexplicable tantrums, their needs are overwhelming. And it's difficult to imagine what their parents--Stephen Stills, the rock star, happens to be one of them--contend with off screen. But, ultimately, this film connects you to the way that autistic kids can and do learn, communicate and enjoy their lives. Stephen Sills' son is obsessed by dinosaurs, and has an encyclopedic knowledge about them--but chooses to behave like one of the monsters are inappropriate moments. Lexi sings beautifully, but her conversations consist mostly of repeated phrases. Watching them is enlightening and heartbreaking. Elaine Hall's determination, patience and faith are extraordinary. As she guides the kids through rehearsals, she's not really sure that they'll be able to perform the show--but she stays the course, dealing with the kids' discipline problems and parents who express their anxieties by making demands. In the end, the show does go on--and Adam plays the cello beautifully. But we don't see the performance from start to finish--just snippets. So we never quite feel the magnitude of Elaine's success and the kids' achievement. But we are informed that Elaine has received funding for a second Miracle Project--so maybe there will be an Autism: The Musical II.
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