Daily mini-review: Life, Animated (Netflix)

‘“But it can get so lonely, talking to yourself. You have to live in the world.” 

Life, Animated is one of my all-time favourite documentaries, I urge everyone to watch it. Owen Suskind seemed like a ‘normal kid’ who was developing just fun, until he suddenly stopped learning to speak at the age of 3, a diagnosis of autism soon followed. Unable to communicate, he became cut-off and isolated from the world, until he taught himself to speak using Disney movies. A powerful, often very funny, look at the power of family and how love might not conquer all – but it will often confound all expectations.

The documentary follows Owen now, as he is getting ready to move away on his own to college, intercut with the journey he and his family went on to get there. The juxtaposition between present and past emphasises just how incredible Owen’s journey has been and continues to be.

At times it is exceptionally moving, hearing Owen explain how he struggled to understand the world and felt so isolated for so so long. His father’s anecdote of the first time he heard Owen speak after years of silence, using Peter Pan to explain how alone he thought his older brother must be feeling. It’s also very, very funny – the sequence where Owen and his brother discuss relationships whilst paying crazy golf is a total highlight.

My beloved uncle, who passed away in 2015, had severe special needs– a combination of things that occurred whilst in the womb and during birth. During his thirty years, he had over 150 operations.  He was unable to speak and unable to learn sign language, so my family created a version for him with support and guidance from all sorts of medical services. This documentary matters so much to be because of him, as it captures life for people like Owen and my Uncle Richard so perfectly. Owen is obsessed with Disney, and uses it as a frame of reference to express himself and understand the world. My Uncle used action films, Darling Buds Of May and Only Fools and Horses.

The documentary captures how difficult life can be, but that humour can he found within – it has to be found to make things bearable – and that joy can be found in all sorts of unexpected places.

Few documentaries are this life-affirming and utterly joyous. I really implore you to watch this one as soon as you can.

Click here to read my extended review.


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