Unique. Fascinating. Moving.
This wonderfully different documentary tells the story of Owen Suskind, A.K.A Protector of Sidekicks, who is an admirable and amazing autistic young man. Life, Animated provides viewers a beautiful and inspiring coming-of-age story based on the book by Ron Suskind, Owen’s father. We learn about Owen’s challenging childhood and how he found solace in Disney movies, particularly the sidekick characters. The events and emotions experienced by each character resonated with Owen and eventually helped him navigate human interaction and his world. Although autism presents itself in various ways, there are many families and friends who can relate to Owen and his family. The daily and yearly challenges and successes are evident but I promise you will find yourself rooting for the Suskind family, particularly Owen, and feeling proud of each achievement. You may laugh or shed a tear, but you will most certainly find this enjoyable.
- Growing Up is Difficult – There are a couple scenes where Owen comments on how hard it is to be grownup and asks why life has to suck sometimes. He really nailed it, huh? This reminded me of a scene from my childhood. One morning, when spending the summer with my grandparents, I was eating breakfast with my grandfather while he listened to the weather on the radio (typical morning routine). All of a sudden I turned to him and said, “Papa, I never want to grown up.” (To be honest I have little memory of this event but he’s told me the story quite a few times.) Although Owen has faced and overcome a myriad of challenges I never experienced, I can appreciate his sentiment. But always remember, the journey is the reward.
- Defining a Successful Life – After Owen was diagnosed with a form of autism his parents were concerned about the kind of life he would live. Although the film only briefly touches on the subject, it is great fodder for reflection and discussion. How do we define a successful life? How do we know Owen will have a successful life? As the film progresses we learn that Owen’s goals are just like most people’s: graduate school, live on his own, have a girlfriend, get a job. Although Owen’s successes may be on a different scale their our own, I think many of us would fundamentally like to achieve the same goals. Beyond that, contemplating your personal definition of success can be an important exercise. Think about it…