The poignant yet humor filled story about a single mother of a teenager severely impacted by autism, forced to reckon with her daughter’s future. As her child becomes an adult, what used to work, no longer does. What will sustain her daughter, and herself? A parent-child love story, when love means letting go.
A powerful film directed by Emmy Award® winner Janet Grillo (Autism: The Musical), FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne (Beth Broderick, Bonfire of the Vanities, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy (Ashley Rickards, One Tree Hill). Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next. In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom (Greg Germann, Ally McBeal, Friends with Money), an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.
Though it seems to be set up to be a documentary, this is in fact a low-budget film that only seems as such at first. I was a bit skeptical of the film at first, because it seemed like an odd combination of both documentary and film but then I looked at the back cover and recognized Greg Germann and realized that I was, in fact, watching a small little film from writer and director Janet Grillo. The premise is one that is deeply moving and unfortunately one that many parents can relate to. Raising a child as a single parent is an unfortunate circumstance and having a child with autism is just another layer to add to an already difficult situation.
Though the film is short (barely over eighty minutes), it does paint a very moving portrait of a mother and daughter and the trials and tribulations she must go through to try and support her autistic daughter as well as have a work-from-home career (which even comes under attack by her daughter when her laptop gets treated as a toy). With no help from her ex-husband, Jeanne (Beth Broderick) tries to maintain a hold on her situation but frequently finds it difficult to not only do just that but to also find new outlets for human contact. A saving grace comes in the form of Tom (Germann), but that turns sour as Jeanne cannot reconcile a relationship with him as well as maintain one with her daughter.
It’s not a film I personally felt any connection to but it was still one that was deeply moving regardless. It may feel a little bit like a Lifetime production, but it’s nonetheless a Recommended outing if only for the strength of the performances here. They were so good that it very well could have been a documentary without much trouble.
New Video/Flatiron brings Fly Away to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the film here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks rather simplistic. Video and audio is a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a documentary. As can be expected from a documentary the video is in 1.85:1 and the audio is a simple DD5.1 mix with the majority of the track focused in the front channels. Extras include:
A conversation with the filmmakers of FLY AWAY
Autism Speaks: It’s Time to Listen (Music Video)
Companion guide with information on autism spectrum disorders
The conversation with the filmmakers is definitely a must-listen if you enjoyed the film, though sadly the rest of the extras are pretty light. I would’ve liked more insight from the actors involved, but overall a solid DVD (and one which 10% of the sales goes to Autism Speaks). Worth a Rental as I doubt it’s something you’ll watch repeatedly.
Fly Away arrives on DVD on April 26th.