REVIEW: Life, Animated

10 08 2016

Life, AnimatedOdds are, anyone watching the documentary “Life, Animated” will feel some common ground with the film’s subject. As a young child, Owen Suskind developed autism so severe that he lost motor and verbal capabilities. Animated movies were, as one of his parents put it, a “rescue mission to pull him out” of his condition.

The characters on screen allowed him to understand, experience and then express the world. It’s a sensation many of us share with our favorite flicks, though it is rare to find a case where the affinity is so strong that it can literally spark physical transformation. The extent to which Owen’s family encourages his passion sparks not only tremendous personal growth but also a veritable cinephile community centered around Disney animation in his special needs school.

The film itself details the power of animation in Owen’s life, yet it also adds a big narrative dimension. At the time Roger Ross Williams’ camera rolls, Owen is preparing to live independently of parents and teachers as well as secure employment. This aspect is touching, sure, but it lacks the same compelling pull as the emerging field of science known as “affinity therapy” that arose from cases like Owen.

As presented, “Life, Animated” feels stretched to 90 minutes when it could just as easily be shrunk into a profile on a news magazine show – or something like t. (Probably “Good Morning America” because Disney.) Redeeming moments come most often in scenes Owen shares with his older brother, Walt, who has come to the realization that he will soon be caretaker for both his parents and sibling. These feelings are, of course, only ones he expresses in private. When he’s out playing putt-putt or popping in a VHS tape with his brother, nothing but pure love and support emanates. The film echoes his graciousness of spirit, with perhaps a similar moment here or there of slippage. B2halfstars

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One response

14 08 2016
Jay

We saw this at Tribeca with the film makers and the family and it was really moving.

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