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Life, Animated movie review: Moving tale of how Disney changed an autistic boy's life

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 24 February 2017, 21:20 IST

Like most of us, Owen Suskind has a thing for Disney's animated works. But while most of us like Disney, and some of us even profess to love their animation, Disney is a lot more important to Owen than it is to any of us, for without it Owen would not be where he is today.

No, Owen is not some hotshot animator inspired by Disney cartoons. He is autistic. And it is Disney that helped Owen come to terms with his autism so that he could finally connect with the world.

His journey -- from an autistic child unable to process the world around him, to a functional young adult learning to live on his own, forms the basis of Roger Ross William's documentary film Life, Animated. The title is a nod to the significant role that animated movies had in Owen's development.

With a screenplay written by Owen's own father, Ron, Life, Animated is a brilliant documentary that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, while also serving as an easy entry point to the still-misunderstood disorder of autism.

It chronicles how Owen's parents, who thought they'd lost their son to a disorder that was then still largely shrouded in mystery, manage to reconnect with him through the medium of Disney.

Given the importance of movies like The Lion King, Little Mermaid and Peter Pan, the documentary is also peppered with snippets of all of these films. However, these snippets take on a whole new world of meaning as we see how Owen uses them to interpret the real world.

With animation forming such a vital part of Owen's journey, the movie also uses the medium to bring Owen's journey and thoughts to life.

By following Owen, both in the present day, as well as through home videos shot by his parents, and their recollections of him growing up, we're given a rare glimpse into what it's like to live with autism, both for the sufferer as well as those around him/her.

Through interactions with Owen, the film also manages to foster a strong sense of empathy in the audience, while simultaneously dispelling myths about autism and raising awareness.

While the first half of the film takes a look at Owen's journey to adulthood, the second half follows Owen as he takes the final steps to leading an independent life - an incredible transformation from the 3-year-old boy who couldn't manage to speak a single world.

By the end, you're left rooting for Owen to succeed, while simultaneously worrying for him, hurting during his failures and exulting in his triumphs. You enter aloof, but leave feeling like you're part of the Suskind family and that is a testament to the brilliance of Life, Animated.

Sadly, as with most documentaries that reach Indian theatres, Life, Animated won't be around for long, so make sure to go out and watch it this weekend.

Rating: 4/5

First published: 24 February 2017, 21:20 IST
 
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