Life, Animated review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
A heartwarming, captivating and most of all - honest tale of facing life’s challenges while battling autism – Life, Animated is the true story of Owen Suskind and his trials and tribulations with the condition in mind. It is, at times sad and bittersweet, but it’s also motivating and funny, carrying along a message not many documentaries care to explore as deeply as director Roger Ross Williams does. A viewing that delves deeply into the condition of autism and helps others understand how consequences living with it reflect upon both an individual and the nearby community that is surrounding him.
Life, Animated follows the life of Owen Suskind, who at the age of three had started acting strange toward his parents. Little did they know Owen would never be able to normally communicate with them in the future, since he would soon be diagnosed with autism - to a great heartache of his beloved family.
There was still hope to be had however.
After seeking professional help, his father Ron (the author of a book this film is based upon) finally found a way to get in touch with his son. Namely, Owen became mesmerized by animated Disney features and was soon able to express many, if not all feelings through the often jumpy character gestures and exaggerated motions these fictional characters employed. While learning, Owen has used segments, moments - even whole scenes to convey what his thought were on a given topic. Features included were Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book and many more.
What’s more: Life, Animated shows Owen memorizing all dialogue that Disney characters speak, whether it be long string of complicated jargon sentences, or one liners that deliver a punch-line made immortal by all who care to remember it. From here onward, Owen has managed to step over the obstacles and has started learning conventional and methodical knowledge techniques like reading, writing, and finally – speaking. His parents couldn’t be happier at this point, and we the audience feel it too.
Furthermore, the film’s structure combines animation, live footage from Owen’s childhood and later young adulthood, and various inserts from different animated Disney classics to show how Owen’s character develops through these steps. It’s both sad and nostalgic to see how he grows up to pursue a life of his own without the help of his parents; but it’s also cathartic to see Owen, after all that trouble, succeed in what he wants to do in life.
Ultimately, Life, Animated provides valuable insight into the lives of those with autism, and all affected sides for that matter. It’s a tale of endurance that will fill you with bittersweet joy once the credits start to roll.