The Reason I Jump

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Reason I Jump Movie Poster Image
Powerful, insightful docu about people with autism.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 82 minutes

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes compassion, curiosity, empathy, and perseverance through stories of each of the young adults and their families. Encourages patience and understanding. Neurodiverse individuals are interviewed and discuss how they think and feel.

Positive Role Models

Featured parents are all committed to helping and supporting their children. They advocate for their kids and delight in being able to communicate with them. Documentary follows a racially and ethnically diverse group of individuals and families. Amrit is able to focus on her drawing and produce startling artwork. Through his words, Naoki Higashida is able to connect the neurotypical to the thoughts and feelings of a neurodiverse person. Emma and Ben are devoted to their friendship and work hard to be more independent.

Violence

Parents discuss aggression of their child with autism, how it got him expelled from school. Parents in Sierra Leone talk about how their children have been threatened. One mother says she's been encouraged to dump her child in the river. An adolescent boy is shown agitated, crying, pushing.

Sex
Language

One use of "f--king" (an exasperated father says it in regards to a restaurant) and "badass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A family toasts, but it's unclear what drinks they're toasting with.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Reason I Jump is a documentary based on the same-named 2007 memoir written by Naoki Higashida, a nonverbal Japanese teenager with autism. Passages from the book -- which was translated into English by novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and his wife, KA Yoshida (who have a child with autism themselves) -- are used throughout, and this highlights the lives of various nonverbal young adults in India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sierra Leone. Their stories reflect some of the issues and feelings Higashida wrote about in his memoir. There's a tiny bit of strong language (an exasperated father says "f--king," and a subject spells out "badass" on his letter board). But otherwise the only barrier to watching it is the subject matter, which might be difficult for very young viewers but is appropriate for older tweens who understand the concept of neurodiversity.

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What's the story?

THE REASON I JUMP is a documentary based on the 2007 memoir about life as a nonverbal teen with autism written by Naoki Higashida. Translated from Japanese into English by author David Mitchell and his wife, KA Yoshida (who have a nonverbal child with autism), the book is adapted for the screen with the framing device of Higashida's words narrated over images of a young Japanese boy wordlessly running, jumping, and walking around in nature. Director Jerry Rothwell interviews Mitchell, as well as various nonverbal adolescents and adults (and their families) from around the world. In India, Amrit draws and paints so beautifully that her artwork is exhibited in a gallery. In Great Britain, Joss can recall experiences from infancy as if they just occurred. In the United States, Emma and Ben have been friends since preschool and are finally able to communicate with each other and their families once they master the letter board. And in Sierra Leone, Jestina thrives despite the greater community's stigma against children with disabilities

Is it any good?

This is a fascinating, sensitive portrayal of how nonverbal, neurodiverse young adults look at the world, communicate, and express their joy. The Reason I Jump deftly weaves in passages from the translated memoir as narration read over images of a young Japanese-British boy standing in for Higashida. Director Jerry Rothwell and cinematographer Ruben Woodin Dechamps do an excellent job of chronicling all five of the featured teens and young adults with autism.

Each of the stories is equally intriguing -- a rare feat in a documentary that focuses on multiple people -- and each reveals another aspect of what Higashida's book explores. Whether it's discussing how Joss doesn't experience time in a linear way and can recall moments from as early as toddlerhood as if they just occurred, or how Amrit doesn't speak but can express herself so fully via her extraordinary art, or the way that Ben and Emma, after more than a decade of friendship, were finally able to share their thoughts via letter board and text chats, the film always circles back to the memoir's revelations. Jestina's story is particularly memorable because she and her parents lead support groups for local parents who are struggling to deal with societal stigma (and even threats) against their children. Ultimately, this is a remarkable documentary that centers the neurodiverse even as it aims to educate the neurotypical.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what The Reason I Jump has to teach neurotypical viewers about neurodiversity. What did you learn from the documentary?

  • Why is it important to see diverse characters in movies and other media? How does this documentary contribute to the goal of representing diverse experiences in media?

  • Which character strengths do the families featured in the documentary exemplify? Why are curiosity, compassion, empathy, and perseverance important?

Movie details

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