Friday, April 20, 2007

From Reuters: Review of the movie "Thomas" a look a life with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This inspiring BBC America film about child autism is often excruciatingly difficult to watch.
Those who produce made-for-TV movies in the U.S. could learn a thing or two from the British production team that crafted "After Thomas," which is billed as a true story.
The film details the struggle of Nicola (Keeley Hawes) and Rob Graham (Ben Miles) to break through and communicate with their autistic 6-year-old son, Kyle (Andrew Bryne in an astonishingly good turn). Kyle suffers from one of the more extreme forms of the debilitating condition: He is incapable of responding to, or dispensing, affection to most external stimuli, which frustrates and devastates his parents while putting an incalculable strain on their crumbling marriage.
Seemingly the only thing that captures Kyle's interest is the children's TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine" and the train toys featured on the series. But it isn't nearly enough to mitigate what becomes an increasingly desperate situation. Rob wants to send Kyle to a boarding school for autistic kids, while Nicola fights it, giving up her life to communicate with her wholly unresponsive son. At their breaking point, the Grahams buy a Golden Retriever in the hope that a pet could help unlock the bolted doors to Kyle's psyche. They name the pooch Thomas (after Kyle's favorite TV character), and the results of the canine companionship would exceed with their wildest hopes.
Indeed, the dog has a miraculous impact, turning on the light of awareness in a way thought unfathomable. Today, the actual Kyle (named Dale in real life) is 18 and virtually unrecognizable from the shut-off lad we see throughout much of "Thomas."
Yet despite that shamelessly uplifting story line, the film proves revelatory in a way that's anything but sappy and maudlin. It earns its tears honestly, with scribe Lindsey Hill infusing the dialogue with genuine heartache and heart in equal measure and director Simon Shore inspiring magnificent, poignant work from his players. In particular, young Bryne is simply phenomenal in a role that called for such raw emotion