Movie review / ‘The Reason I Jump’

“The Reason I Jump” (M) *** and a half

PREMIERING in January 2020, this relatively brief (82 minutes) doco examines an issue little known except in families where it’s a daily companion, often a burden but never beyond the boundaries that an undiscriminating Mother Nature has built around it. 

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that “causes a wide range of impairments in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviours”. Perhaps 10,000 cases of it are recorded annually in Australia. There is no cure. 

“The Reason I Jump” began as a book by Naoki Higashida, an autistic 13-year-old Japanese boy. One of its translators into English appears briefly in award-winning director Jerry Rothwell’s imaginative semi-documentary film. Novelist David Mitchell and his Japanese wife are the parents of an autistic child. 

Rothwell’s amicable and positive doco consists of interviews with autistic people from several countries and their carers. Only in Sierra Leone does the film’s teenaged character Jestina find life difficult. She is not pretty. 

Viewers may be surprised by the film’s demonstrations of qualities in autistic young people whose ability to speak is savagely compromised. They use alphabet cards to spell what they want to say – grammar and spelling both correct. The left-hand edge of the screen provides visual cues illustrating what’s coming, suggesting that Rothwell and Mitchell want their film to reach autistic folk without startling them.

The film’s unscripted narrative thread is cohesive and positive. 

Forgive me for finishing with a personal note. Four decades ago, in Kainantu in PNG, I bought a collection of ceramic items. They’re not delicate but their red clay bodies, deep green glaze and incised decoration are handsome and friendly. Turn them upside down and a name appears – “Tais”. 

Tais was a tiny little bloke with a great smile. The robust ceramics he threw are visually and tactilely comforting. Tais cannot speak. His best friend is always beside him. They have somehow worked out how to communicate. “The Reason I Jump” took me back to meeting him and explained much. The experience was good both times.

At Dendy



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