Review: The Reason I Jump

Directed by Jerry Rothwell and based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

Autism has been represented on screen in a variety of films such as Rain Man, Mary and Max, X + Y, Mercury Rising and more recently The Night Clerk but they all represent a mild version of the disability compared to The Reason I Jump’s several severe examples. There are quite possibly a great number of people that don’t even realise autism could affect a person to the point of being entirely unable to verbally communicate, having been rarely explored in the media. This film will educate you on the different aspects of the disability but remarkably, it will also teach you how to be a better person.

The immediate atmosphere that this film builds is one of compassion, affection and understanding; Naoki Higashida’s concept to create a way for people to understand the thought processes of an autistic person was genius, it’s such a complex topic and will open your eyes to how they struggle. It follows the basic idea of observing behaviour, what may seem erratic and illogical at first, over time and with patience its reasons become clear. Autistic people perceive the world differently and Higashida came up with an especially elegant way to demonstrate that, so other people can have the slightest glimpse into their world and be more able to support them. Rothwell took that and created a brilliant visual representation through worldwide examples of cases, each very individual examples and personalities.

Ben and Emma are particularly fascinating to watch, both being unable to communicate in the traditional sense but the work they do with others to give them a voice, as well as this mutual understanding and friendship they have with each other is extraordinary. It gives you hope watching them push forward and finding a way to connect with people, despite how difficult it may be, and gives you a bigger respect for what they go through in how eloquent they are about their situation, it may take them longer to get it out but their words are still powerful. One of the other aspects people may not have considered is those suffering in developing countries where their disability is perceived through superstitious eyes, thinking them cursed or even possessed. It’s harrowing to see that environment where there’s so little awareness, making it so much harder for them to get the help they need. At the same time it’s beautiful to see the parental dedication to loving and caring for their child and rejecting all the negativity that surrounds them; instead trying to connect with a larger community of people with disabilities for support.  

The Reason I Jump is truly something special, it’s intense and eye-opening but most of all it has a wonderful message of compassion and understanding. It’s a film that’s full of people actively trying to empathise, support and help, and one that will likely encourage a lot of people to be more aware and considerate. The entire concept of the book and the way that Rothwell has visually interpreted it are exceptional, it explores the disability in a way that no other film has done and will undoubtedly stay with you for a long time to come.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ ½

Coming to UK cinemas 18 June

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival’s ‘Journey’ strand

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