Asperger's Are Us

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Asperger's Are Us Movie Poster Image
Young men with ASD prep for comedy show in smart docu.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 82 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Establishes that, despite challenges, people on the autism spectrum can forge meaningful, productive lives. Provides an insightful look at four young adults with Asperger's Syndrome: their strengths, limits, and the singular behavior of each of them. Confirms that each is unique and forges his/her own path.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Four central characters' ability to maintain friendships, focus on tasks, control behavior, deal with and transcend limitations is highlighted. Each exhibits unique mechanisms that enable them to succeed. These young adults exceed general audience expectations. Limited appearances of some of the parents show them to be supportive, loving, and trying hard to understand their kids. No ethnic diversity.

Violence
Sex
Language

Occasional profanity and cursing: "s--t," "kick-ass," "hell," "phallus," "f--k, you guys," "ass," "pissed off," "c--k-blocking." References to farting, women menstruating.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Asperger's Are Us is a documentary that follows four young adult men (late teens and early twenties) with Asperger's Syndrome as they work together over several months to prepare a comedy show. Asperger's is defined as a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Those with Asperger's ("Aspies" as the oldest of the group often calls them) often exhibit above average intelligence in tandem with impaired social skills and repetitive, restrictive behaviors and interests. This film provides an insightful look at these complex, interesting, and likeable folks as they interact. Some swearing and profanities are sprinkled throughout (i.e., "pissed off," "s--t," "ass-tingled," "phallus," and one "f--k, you guys.") Because Asperger's is no longer a little known or documented syndrome (U.S. estimates in 2016 are 1 in 68 births), its existence seems to touch everyone. Teens and up will gain insights into those diagnosed with Asperger's. As with other challenging concepts, a movie like this one provides an up-close-and-personal look at those who might seem different but really are very similar to most of us.

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What's the story?

In ASPERGER'S ARE US, Noah Britton, Ethan Finlan, "New Michael" Ingemi, and Jack Hanke are about to engage in a movie staple -- they're going to put on a show. They've been doing comedy and improv in the Boston area for some time, but this is to be their finale, the last show before one of their members takes off for an Oxford education. The fact that all four have Asperger's Syndrome, which makes them less socially skilled, less adaptable, and with some striking eccentricities, only makes them more committed to the task at hand. Noah, Ethan, "New Michael," and Jack met at a summer camp while as young teens; Noah is the oldest by several years and functions as mentor as well as pal. They forged a tight friendship then, and it has lasted. Director Alex Lehmann follows them -- individually and as a unit over a period of months, keeping the camera focused on their words, their emotions, and the importance of each to the other. Brief chats with some of the parents, and the support of New Michael's other best friend, complement the activities of the foursome. With the formidable team of Mark and Jay Duplass producing, Lehmann tries very hard to reveal the heart of his subjects by staying as close to them as possible throughout their adventure.

Is it any good?

An earnest effort to portray the challenges and successes of those with Asperger's Syndrome, this compelling film introduces four young men who shine as they struggle with their uniqueness. And, it's clear that they're alike, but not at all the same. Asperger's Are Us substantiates the range and depth of their friendships, and the fact that their shared goals are keys to their continuing maturation. They gain confidence, acceptance, inspiration, and positive feelings about themselves from one another, and that's what partially makes the film so endearing. By the end of the film, audiences will be heartened to note how far these young men have come, and, as important, how far their singular paths will hopefully lead them. Some tedious and/or repetitive sequences are only minor flaws in an otherwise solid movie. And, what audiences think of the actual comedy performed in the movie is beside the point. Best for mature teens, the film has the capacity to elicit empathy and understanding for a growing segment of the population.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how different Noah, Ethan, "New Michael," and Jack are from one another, and in what ways they are the same in Asperger's Are Us. Were you surprised by their unique personalities?

  • Documentary movies like this one can be both educational and inspirational. Before you saw this one, what were your thoughts and/or opinions about people with Asperger's Syndrome? Which, if any, preconceptions did this movie change for you?

  • Why do you think Alex Lehmann and his team chose not to narrate this film, and to show very few interviews with people other than his subjects? Was this a wise choice on his part? Why or why not?

  • If you know anyone who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, how did the movie affect your feelings about that person? If you have Asperger's Syndrome, how did the movie resonate with you?

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