Directed by Roger Ross Williams
Based on the book by Ron Suskind
Heroes can be found in unexpected places.
That's one of the beautiful things about "Life, Animated," an engrossing, illuminating documentary that follows Own Suskind, an autistic young man who journeyed from almost total silence to re-engagement with the world. That change came in large part because of Disney movies, a world where good always triumphs over evil, true love always wins, and it's possible to memorize the script by heart.
The movie gently and honestly unfolds Owen's story from his own perspective, as well as that of his parents and his older brother (the documentary is based on a book by Ron Suskind, Owen's father). The connecting thread is beautiful animation, much of it narrating a story Owen himself created – "Protector of the Sidekicks."
Everything is woven together magnificently by the director, cinematographer and editor, feeling fresh and real while at the same time always connecting back to the story. The dynamics of Owen's family are gentle but also very realistic, full of love but not without the occasional hiccup. That, however, just makes their bond feel more real, and director Roger Ross WIlliams honestly portrays both the love and the worry.
Even if you don't know anyone with autism, "Life, Animated" is so wonderfully human that you'll feel like you know Owen by the end of the film. You'll cheer for him and his family, and ache for them, too. And when it's done, you'll want to watch the movie all over again.