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The Movie, Ezra...See It But Be Forewarned

Ezra has a star studded cast which includes lead autistic actor, William A. Fitzgerald, as well as fabulous well known actors such as: Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Robert DeNiro, and Whoopi Goldberg. And I think my favorite was the cameo by Alex Plank as one of the emergency room doctors. I have great respect for him and his advice on the film as an autistic individual and associate producer.

I went in to the movie with my usual skeptism about how autistic individuals are portrayed and honestly, yes, came out disappointed. Per usual. And I am a very optimistic person.

Spoiler alert: I share the story line so if you want to see it and be surprised, stop here.

The movie starts out with a scene that is very familiar to many families I meet. The parents are called in to yet another school meeting with administrators who do not seem to know how to support their kid. Instead of the school working with the parents and with young Ezra, they decide he is a danger to himself and the other students. He is asked to leave to be segregated to a "special school," which is supposedly more equipped to handle him. The story chooses not to portray parents confronting the staff, pulling in attorneys, and advocates, like I so often see/hear but by highlighting the fighting between the parents (a divorced couple) about how to best support him.

Ezra ends up getting pushed aside for the fighting to ensue between his strong willed father, Max, played by Bobby Cannavale, and his devoted yet exhausted mother, Rose Byrne. After a fight, Ezra misunderstands something said when mom is venting with her new boyfriend and Ezra ends up quietly slipping out the front door - only to confront a dog then running in front of a taxi as he flees from the dog. All of the above is super well played and accurate by the excellent young actor, William A. Fitzgerald. Autistic individuals very well may misunderstand an angered phrase as true as well as panic when face to face with a dog.

However, instead of showing the world the misunderstandings, the police presume that he ran in front of the taxi on purpose. The story brings in police and social workers not to guide all to better understanding the situation from Ezra's point of view but to further enrage the situation, especially his father, Max. Max becomes physically aggressive with the psychiatrist because he was ordering medications for Ezra. The medication was Risperidone, a very common medication prescribed for autistic individuals.

Max gets arrested, released with a restraining order, and observes Ezra on the playground of his new school as being lethargic and depressed. He then chooses to sneak into his child's bedroom at his mother's home to kidnap him to "save" him from the school and medications. He does so without any plan to ensure Ezra's well-being.

By the way, most of the movie is of Max trying to hug his poor kid who has made it abundantly clear how much he does not want to be hugged. Hello? Wouldn't a parent who wanted so desperately to "save" his son from medications and special schools be a little more in tune with his child? Nope. He takes Ezra across the country, out of his routine, out of the comforts of everything from food to his mother to sleep schedule (they sleep in the car part of the time). Ezra is extremely flexible with this despite a few meltdowns that are relieved with just a little earlobe rub. Okay, so it is routine and it is sensory. I'll go with it but I'm stretching here.

Mom is understandably seriously distraught to the point of begging the grandfather, Stan, played by Robert DeNiro, for information as to Max and Ezra's whereabouts BUT she chooses not to call the police. Um.... hell no. I get the "his dad loves him" thing but really? She can't get a hold of him, grandfather is protecting him, and she doesn't call the police? Okay, I'll let that one slide... my patience is waning.

Ezra's father, Max, brings Ezra across country into comedy clubs/bars to watch him perform stand-up until all hours in addition to upsetting his routine and trying to hug him every few scenes... but here's the kicker: after all of that, mom does end up calling the police and they arrest him.

Whew, right? Nope. The end of the movie is of Max on house arrest getting a hug from the reluctant Ezra like he was cured of his aversion to hugs. Oh hell no.

Go see the movie for the incredible acting but the story line and depiction of how the stress of the autistic experience is lacking, in my opinion. Let's have some movies that show the world how we can be different AND respectful of those differences, please.

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