Keep the Change

If there is one constant I see in my Twitter feed it’s frustration with the lack of actually autistic actors on the screen. It seems almost all autistic characters are portrayed by actors who are neurotypicals (people who do not have autism). In fact, there is a hashtag in the cyberverse (#ActuallyAutistic) that underscores the lack of autistic voices tapped when it comes to discussing and depicting the Autism Spectrum in media.

Indeed K, my Aspergirl, cringes and rants each and every time she hears of yet another movie or show that features a character with Asperger’s – then refuses to watch them. It’s gotten to the point my husband knows better than to tell her about them. Why? In part, she feels many pander. Most lack diversity. And as mentioned above, far too many use neurotypical actors for these roles, and she will not give those casting choices her time or her money. Personally speaking, there are not enough words to describe how disappointing it is when those involved in casting choose not to audition autistic actors for these roles.

 

It’s short-sighted.

Ok, ok, to any directors out there I do hear you. You want someone who easily takes direction, right? And, sure, not all with autism will fit that vision. But there are those who can. Did you know far too many on the Autism Spectrum have been acting for years, trying to fly under the radar? I hear this time and time again from those with Asperger’s Syndrome, their families, and the professionals who support them. Ever hear the phrase, “She doesn’t seem autistic to me?” Yeah, that.

*Mom, here, stepping down from soapbox*

*Mom, here, self-talking positive thoughts*

*Mom, here, dusting off self, taking in a few deeps breaths, getting back on track*

Back to the movie, right?

So, how does “Keep the Change” fit into all this? To this author and Aspie mom, it’s a welcome leap in the right direction. It’s a breath of fresh air. It features actually autistic actors, which is reason enough to put it on your radar. Characters in the movie who have autism are portrayed by those who are *gasp* authentic.

*Mom, here, pauses to think happy thoughts and ditch the sarcasm*

Sorry, once a tiger mom, always a tiger mom.

Writer-director Rachel Israel should be commended for her work and her motivation, as well as all involved in bringing this film to the big screen. Rachel Israel put people and the story first, autism second. Isn’t that how it should be?

“Keep the Change” is a romantic comedy filmed in New York City. Rachel Israel did an incredible job portraying individuals with autism in a romantic relationship. But she goes a step further. “Keep the Change” shows interplay among several adults who are on the Autism Spectrum, too. This representation is sorely needed. There are archaic mindsets that those with autism do not socialize, especially without supervision. Myths linger, including if someone is non-verbal, they are not “in there” – they cannot and will not interact with nor listen to others. Although this may be true for some, it is not true for most. Oh – and then there’s yet another myth; all those on the Autism Spectrum are introverts. Not true, a fact wonderfully illustrated in the film.

My husband and I enjoyed watching the interactions between all of the characters. It was warm, raw and real. We appreciated the balance the main characters, David Cohen (played by Brandon Polansky) and Sarah Silverstein (played by Samantha Elisofon) demonstrated as each had strengths that complimented the other. My heart hurt as I watched Brandon’s mother (played by Jessica Walter), listened to words she uttered that while piercing are all too real for many. I smiled when Brandon pulled out a twenty, knowing where that was going to lead (oh, the flashbacks to K dumping her wallet on the counter and telling the cashier to “take what you need”) and teared up when Sarah helped David on the carousel. I enjoyed the group’s autonomy, another fact overlooked as autism does, indeed, grow up. 

After the film, we were treated to a panel discussion, including the mother of an autistic young man (he was there, too), a woman with Asperger’s, a few therapists and one of the film’s producers, Summer Shelton. If you choose to see “Keep the Change,” consider seeing it with a small group, too, hosting a chat afterwards. There is a lot to talk about and a lot we can all continue to learn from each other, isn’t there?

But what about the film, itself? Here are some specifics. Meanwhile, you can follow it on Twitter: @ktcfilm.

What is “Keep the Change” About?

Here is a short synopsis by Kino Lorber who now owns the rights to the film:

“A New York City romantic comedy, Keep the Change is the unlikely love story of two people who meet in a support group. While David, an upper-class charmer, wants nothing to do with this world, Sarah fully embraces her individuality. When paired on an assignment to take a field trip over the Brooklyn Bridge, David is less than enthused. But what he doesn’t realize is that this quirky bundle of energy just might hold the key to his happiness.”

And that’s what it is; a love story involving two individuals, who just happen to have autism. The story and the characters come first. Autism isn’t the main focus, the characters are. (Yes, I’m repeating myself.) And that’s beautiful. My husband and I found the film endearing.

True, our Aspie has stronger executive functioning skills, but so what? Not everyone who has autism experiences it the same, which is something this film so wonderfully demonstrates. As someone mentioned after the viewing, this is the type of film to see twice as there is only so much you can pick up on the first time around. I call this type of movie a “crockpot movie”. What I mean by this is the deeper story continues to build a few days after watching it. Buy a ticket, watch it, give it a day or two to simmer inside you and you’ll see what I mean.

Recognition

“Keep the Change” was originally released in 2017 and received a few outstanding awards:

  • Best U.S. Narrative Feature – Tribeca Film Festival
  • Best New Narrative Director – Tribeca Film Festival
  • Special Mention, Nora Ephron Prize – Tribeca Film Festival

In other words, this isn’t another mom-blog telling you to try another avocado infused paleo recipe or to buy a monogrammed whatever. This movie is solid and worth your time. I am not sponsored by them. This review is meant to share the word.

Should You Watch “Keep the Change”?

Yes, because “Keep the Change” is a good movie that is a fresh voice in a stale field. My husband and I are still quoting bits here and there, especially a few lines from Sarah! It’s only 93 minutes long, which is just the right length, too.

Yes, because this movie embodies what K says of “voting with our pocketbooks.” The world could use more authentic pieces that reflect those on the Autism Spectrum. If we choose not to support the first few, will there be others? Likely not many.

But there a few things to consider.

Parents, this is a rom-com about young adults. The content may not be suitable for the younger members of your home. Do your due diligence (ahem, #parenting) and look into the content presented before rushing out with the kids.

Aspies, I think it’s worth your dime. As you know, there is so little out there featuring anyone with autism in an authentic way. There is the chance some of the main characters need more day to day helps than you might. Or maybe you need more than they did. That’s ok. You may not agree with the way David jokes or the way a parent reacts to a situation. That’s ok, too. I’m going to toss out some tough mom-love here. We all come from different places and our stories vary. Do not view the movie expecting it to mirror your own life. View the movie expecting it to reflect characters experiencing their own flavors of autism. Their perspectives, just like yours, are valid. 🙂

When I visited Kino Lorber’s website for more information for this piece, I had to smile at one of the links, “PLAYDATES.” Of course, this tells when you can catch the movie. But as the parent of a daughter with Asperger’s, it brought back memories when playdates were few and far between – and often unsuccessful. Over the years my daughter has grown tremendously. As she’ll tell you, Asperger’s is part of who she is but it does not define her. So, I had to smile when I saw the word “PLAYDATES” on the screen. For once, it’s those with autism setting the dates for you to come and interact with them, to engage in their expression of living this life, not the other way around. And that is a beautiful thing.

If you like the movie (or this piece), please share it! “Keep the Change” has a limited nationwide release. The more who share it, the greater the chance more will follow. And the greater the chance more theaters will pick it up.

All my best

Julie

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