Based on the book by Naoki Higashida, this immersive film explores the experiences of non-speaking autistic people around the world. Award-winning director Jerry Rothwell’s compelling documentary which is produced by Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee and Al Morrow and has been translated by author David Mitchell is a rare cinematic and sensorial insight into the world of non-speaking autistic people.
Based on the bestselling book by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is a cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. And it truly does carry a wide-reaching spread. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory descriptions of his autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe. These illustrations are overloaded with sound, image and much to intensify our emotions, adding to the authenticated experience the film offers.
Distilling these elements into a sensually rich tapestry, Jerry Rothwell successfully conveys Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say. With many in the documentary that suffer from autism inspiring and enabling us to understand their frustration with this world and it’s inability to remotely cater for the needs of autistic people and their requirements, we get much simply out of this documentary alone.
Having never read Naoki Higashida’s ground-breaking memoir, I was not entirely prepared for the film content. A world in which a 13-year-old nonspeaking autistic boy brilliantly describes his perception of the world, The Reason I Jump offers a rich and highly relatable first-hand portrait of what autism feels like. Using excerpts from the book and a narrator interspersed with the case studies of real life autistic children is a great narrative structure for highlighting how distressing or intensely beautiful the world can be for someone with ASD. Somewhat desaturated, somewhat colourful at times, along with the use of kinetic lights and immersive sound, Rothwell has crafted a deeply empathetic and immersive documentary. The deserving winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, it is a real eye-opener that challenges and overturns many preconceptions about autism.
Rothwell could have easily been entirely loyal to the book but the real life examples and humans that outline the remarkable nature of ASD as well as the many obstacles and barriers it can present add an expertly emotive touch that renders this film remarkable, and somewhat upbeat. Concluding the score with Lykke Li’s Dance Dance Dance the film indeed concludes on a positive note, touching upon the amazing talents of these five people. The Reason I Jump is deserving of this award and equally your time.
The Reason I Jump will be out in cinemas across the UK from 18th June