A Mother's Courage: Talking Back To Autism
It's difficult to avoid comparisons between A Mother's Courage (originally titled The Sunshine Boy) with The Horse Boy (originally titled Over the Hills and Far Away) another recent autobiographical documentary on the stress put on families dealing with Autism. With Horse Boy, Rupert Isaacson documented his family's trip from their cozy Texas suburb to the far-flung provinces of Mongolia to seek shamanic treatments from reindeer herders. Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's Courage centers on Margret Dagmar Ericsdottirs, an Icelandic women from a similarly privileged family who travels to the States to visit different schools and individual specialists in the field of Autism. Their 8 year old son Kaley has gone through many experimental treatments with little results and has now aged past the point of most effective interventions.
Autism is a little understood neurological disorder that heightens some senses to the point of being unable to cope with outside stimuli. Kids on the more progressed end of the spectrum can appear to be blind, deaf or unable to speak even though there is no physical abnormality. The affected often develop repetitive behaviors to self-stimulate in a controlled, soothing way. Even those on the less-impacted end of the spectrum have extreme difficulty empathizing or interacting with their parents and peers.
While sympathetic to these families' struggle, Fridriksson seems particularly focused on the excesses of American families' lifestyles (an inevitable parallel in a culture with enough wealthy and self-determination to be at the forefront of Autism treatments). When spending time with various Americans the camera carefully monitors indulgent snack food, the paper plates they use, the locks on the fridge and pantry with special reverie given to the Costco shopping experience.
Read the rest of my review at Greencine.