By Jack Dignan
The only documentary I managed to catch at this year's festival (yes, I'm still reviewing movies from the Sydney Film Festival. Sorry) was a film called Life, Animated, and while this may have been the only documentary I saw, I highly doubt there was a better one that played. Life, Animated is the story of Owen Suskind, who at a very young age was diagnosed with autism. We follow his journey, as well as his family's journey, throughout Owen's life as he tries to mature and get ready for the real world, as well as reflecting on how his love for animated Disney movies helped to overcome a lot of problems in life.
Moving and inspiring, Life, Animated is a meaningful and important voyage into the world of autism and the power of cinema. Owen Suskind serves as the main subject of this powerful documentary, and his tale is quite the uplifting one. It goes from being a tear jerker to being incredibly heart warming, all without hesitation. It's a captivating look at autism, too, showing not just the effects on the individual, but their friends and family. We not only get glimpses of his past, some of which will put you to tears and other parts will make you smile with glee, but we also get discussions of what's to happen in the future, and it's all vastly fascinating.
As a film, it isn't perfect. It definitely tries to manipulate its way into your heart and some aspects of it can drag, but the manipulating worked and I was invested. Since a big aspect of Owen's life is animation, and as that is what helps him to communicate and rationalise his thoughts, the documentary drifts between the real world and an animated world. While the animation was very basic, this isn't a problem. It works with the style of the movie, and helps flesh out the stories being narrated to us, and there's an especially great sequence in which we get an animated version of a book Owen has written. It's a brilliant sequence in a brilliant movie. You need to see this film. Now.