Tuesday, 13 December 2016

REVIEW - LIFE, ANIMATED (ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS)


Life, Animated speaks in praise of the sticking plaster, exalts the cure ahead of the prevention. It's engineered to elicit smiles, but the smiles on screen make its ploys much more palatable. It's nothing if not ironic that it depicts the search for integration and normality as a search for happiness, and it's nothing if not alarming that this is a predictably fruitful search, but it'd be disingenuous of me to deny the potency of the effect that Roger Ross Williams' film had upon me. I could rage at it if I really wanted to, but Life, Animated veers clear enough of coercive condescension as to feel like it's honestly on our side, and it's thus mightily difficult to ignite anything resembling rage while watching it. Maybe it's all a manipulative ruse, and therein the very definition of coercive condescension, but maybe not. And it's truly refreshing to witness such a plain, accurate depiction of autism on film, crucially as a mere component in a character study that is considerably more concerned with the more unique, and the more mundane, components that comprise the remainder of this sympathetic portrait. Life, Animated achieves a strange, slick verisimilitude in its polished, professional approach to fly-on-the-wall, camera-crew-in-the-room filmmaking, with the openness of its subjects never lapsing into affectation nor reticence. We really are in the real world here, and the extent to which you regard the film as straightforward exploitation, both of those on the screen and before it, will inform your opinion upon it. My opinion was informed mainly, however, by my own, natural emotional response. This sticking plaster brought me joy; for once, I'll hold off on the rage.