Life, Animated

Director: Roger Ross Williams (2016) BBFC: PG

There are elements of artifice which sit uneasily with the uplifting message of this well meaning documentary.

At three years old Owen Suskind developed severe autism. This left him unable to process the world around him, so he withdrew into himself and spoke only gibberish.

However through watching classic Disney animated films such as The Lion King, he found a way to understand and reconnect with the world. Through adopting the voices of Disney characters, he became able to express himself.

Twenty years later we follow him as he prepares to leave home and find a job, sharing the same dreams and fears as his contemporaries.

There are interviews with his family and doctors, plus home videos and some beautiful specially commissioned animations illustrating Owen’s own stories.

A couple of Disney voice stars turning up to Owen’s film club is a cute stunt, presumably orchestrated by the filmmakers.

More damaging to their carefully constructed narrative is the brief and unexplained reference to Owen’s medication regime, suggesting there’s a lot more science involved in Owen’s miracle recovery than they want to let on.

@ChrisHunneysett

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