Last night in 100 cities and 100 theaters across America there was a movie showing. Those are humble numbers compared to some movies that open to thousands of theaters, but while the summer blockbuster may have millions of dollars of special effects and little substance, last night’s showing of Wretches and Jabberers played under the line of, “100 cities, one night for autism.”
I had zero knowledge of the movie going into last night. Last week I got an e-mail stating that this would be showing and I felt compelled to go see it. I have written about autism and the media in the past and I wanted to see what the movie was about.
Wretches and Jabberers follows two Vermont men who have autism as they go on a three country tour raising awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum. However, whereas my presentations are full of spoken word, the two men, Larry and Tracy, both have limited speech and they primarily communicate via typing. The movie is simply a documentary and you may come to the assumption that typing would not make for a good movie, but you would be very much mistaken in your assumption.
Part way through the beginning the movie states that both men were in an institution earlier in their respective lives. Both men are over 40 and when they were younger the views on autism are much different than they are now.
While the views on autism may be different, what Larry and Tracy truly want to state is that people should not be judged on their intelligence by the ability to speak. Those words, when it was talked about in the movie, stuck with me. Myself, I have never had the inability to talk. However, before I started writing words eluded me as to emotions and speaking up for myself. Both Larry and Tracy discovered typing in their 20’s and it was through this that they finally had a voice. A voice!
Another wonderful line from the movie is that everyone wants communication. In fiction movies autism is sometimes portrayed in a sensationalized way that is not believable. This movie, because it is following real people in an unscripted setting, is as honest as it gets.
As Larry and Tracy go from city to city at various conferences they team up with someone locally who also has autism. A couple of these individuals are younger and it is obvious that it is a great benefit for these people to interact with one another. Imagine two or three decades ago having autism and being completely unaware that there is someone else that thinks like you and has similar challenges.
Last year I did a small review of The Horse Boy movie and had mixed feelings about it. I have no mixed feelings in regards to this as this movie isn’t trying to sell you on the magic cure and it doesn’t paint a picture that autism is something that can go away. At times the words chosen by the two men are extreme, such as one line stating, “Being chained to autism’s death grip that controls my actions.” While that line is powerful, the lines of everyone in the film yearning for the day of full inclusion and the day that intelligence is not determined by physical actions or spoken word is what viewers will remember.
Watching the movie was difficult for me because I got angry. Most people won’t have that response, but I could not help thinking about all those people across Missouri, across the country, and around the world that are isolated without a voice. If there is one thing the movie Wretches and Jabberers will show anyone, whether they have any prior knowledge of autism or not, is that while the exterior of a person may seem different, and one might instantly draw the conclusion that the person must obviously had no intelligence, but that could not be farther from the truth.
It is rare for me to compliment something, but this movie, I feel, was done with perfection. The resounding theme was the desire for a voice, understanding, and a purpose in life. Through the movie Larry and Tracy experience these things and I hope those not on the spectrum that viewed it last night will always remember that we are human, we do have emotions, and what we want is want every person wants and that is acceptance of who we are. My favorite line I have used this past year is “understanding is the foundation for hope” and this movie does a good job in furthering that path.