The Reason I Jump – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
In 2007 Naoki Higashida, a thirteen-year-old Japanese boy published The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism. Although widely translated and an international bestseller, the book was not without controversy with many challenging the core premise and the ability of its author to pen and express its sentiments. Nonetheless, its 2013 translation into English by David Mitchell (living in Cork) and his Japanese wife, Keiko Yoshida (having themselves a son with autism) is used as the inspiration behind this beautiful but heartbreaking documentary.
Exploring the lives of young adults in four culturally diverse locations, India, the UK, the USA and Sierra Leone, what comes across so eloquently is the unbridled love of parents for their children, along with the challenges, the fun moments, and the fear for the future. That the director and camera crew could gain the trust of different families in such a frank and open manner is remarkable. The camera is never intrusive and throughout there are moments of sheer beauty. We are informed at one point how the subject of a particular narrative perceives details before perceiving the whole – a raindrop rather than the whole rain shower, a caterpillar rather than the tree. Silently and effectively these points are underlined in a purely visual manner, allowing us, or perhaps encouraging us, to see the world as a young autistic man and woman may see it.
A poetic narrative, inspired by the Higashida book, interlaces the film, reminding us of its inspiration and the shared humanity of people thousands of miles apart across continents. We come to realise that what so many dismiss as an impossible burden and a challenge has its own inner richness and insight only too desperate to be expressed. The film leaves searing images which may change our way of looking at the world. The parents bringing their daughter, by the hand, through a town in Sierra Leone ignoring the fearful and disparaging glares of neighbours is difficult to watch. The loving father in England who fears for the future when ‘we are no longer here’ is almost unbearable and we, as viewers, share his pain. At the same time, this is never mawkish and if anything boldly assertive, leaving us all the better for having viewed it.