Review: Life, Animated

Drawn from Ron Suskind’s book about his son (Life, Animated: A Story Of Sidekicks, Heroes And Autism), this introduces us to the 23 year old Owen, who smiles for the camera and tells who he is, what’s happening in his life and about his great love for Disney animated movies. Ron, his wife Cornelia, big…

Drawn from Ron Suskind’s book about his son (Life, Animated: A Story Of Sidekicks, Heroes And Autism), this introduces us to the 23 year old Owen, who smiles for the camera and tells who he is, what’s happening in his life and about his great love for Disney animated movies.

Ron, his wife Cornelia, big brother Walt and others then fill us in about Owen’s remarkable story, and we’re treated to home movies from the early ‘90s that depict him as three year old before autism (or ‘pervasive developmental disorder’) caused him to ‘vanish’ (Ron’s term). Ron (a writer for The Wall Street Journal) describes attempts to help Owen for some years afterwards as like “looking for clues to a kidnapping”, and the emotions are still raw for the family and their pain shines through during a series of grey-and-white animated sequences that suggest Owen drifting away.

However, he started coming back in the most unexpected of ways, as his fanatical study of animated Disney movies led to an odd yet wonderful way for him to talk with others and comprehend the world.

All his family and friends needed to do was carefully converse using Disney quotes and the lines of communication were finally, gloriously open. Owen’s soon to graduate, however, and he’s also about to leave home and move into in his own flat in an assisted living facility where his girlfriend Emily will be a neighbour, and this is frightening everyone, and scenes where Owen grows overwhelmed and walks in circles talking in a stream of quotations and gibberish are distressing indeed.

Can he survive out there with all those new responsibilities and deal with life’s challenges – and matters of the heart (and hormones)? Fortunately those scary execs at Disney allowed highlights from their classics to be used (or just heard), and many clips from Peter Pan, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid are included by director Williams with welcome subtlety, while later funny and gracious appearances by voice actors Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Gottfried are very sweet.

And prepare to be traumatised afresh when you see how that always devastating opening sequence from Bambi is used here… and sorry, but I’ve got something in my eye.

Rated PG. Life, Animated is in cinemas now.

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