Very few movies portray autism in such realism and humane approach as in Rain Man, Mary and Max, and Adam. Most carry the stories dealing with high-functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. In an attempt to introduce her audience to another side of the autism spectrum, Janet Grillo, a mother of an autistic child herself, came up with a poignant and beautiful piece called Jack of the Red Hearts. The movie was able to draw attention to the usually overlooked subject and break the notion that all autistic children are idiot savants.
Jack of the Red Hearts looks into the life of a giddy, street smart teenager named Jack, as her life reels around the lives of family slowly being broken by a sweet child with special needs. In her desperation to raise money and gain custody of her younger sister, Jack assumed a different identity and took the caregiving job for a severely autistic child named Glory. Donna, the caregiver, is a blessing to the family who because of the burden of raising a special child is almost in the brink of breaking up. Jack (aka Donna) finds herself in the midst of chaos in dealing and caring for Glory.
What makes the film different and commendable is the honesty of its depiction. First, it allows the audience to visualize the sensorial experience of someone who has autism--the rainbow seen through the crystal globe with the intensity of thought perceived through high places. Secondly, it shows us the challenges of non-verbal communication. Glory oftentimes expressed her anger through aggressive behaviors and often messy. Lastly, to stretch its narrative, several storylines intertwine lives of major characters that are affected either positively or negatively by Glory.
The film’s strength is the encapsulation of the real struggles and fulfillment of raising someone who has autism. It caresses the sanity of living with and the beauty of coping with autism by the child herself and people around her.
Jack of the Red Hearts is an empathetic, authentic, heartwarming, and feel-good family movie that holds the audience’s hand as they view the beauty of autism. The movie is a gentle reminder that in a world of autistic people, patience, understanding, and faith always pays off.