By Carol Guzman
Warning: Light spoilers for "Keep the Change" ahead
Keep the Change is a
refreshing romantic comedy that has authentic autistic representation with
neuro-atypical actors showcasing their talent to create an impactful film that
resonates with everyone. The picture embraces its unique characters and
portrays them dealing with issues prevalent to all: love and self-acceptance.
In honor of National Autism
Awareness Month, I would like to review Keep the Change, a movie featuring
actors in a way no other movie has done before. Usually, neuro-typical actors are
applauded for playing the few neuro-atypical roles available. Sean Penn was
nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of an intellectually disabled father
in I Am Sam. However, the protagonists and supporting characters in Keep
the Change are played by actors who are on the autism spectrum.
This love story takes place in
the Manhattan JCC’s program, ‘Connections,’ for young adults with developmental
and learning disabilities. The film centers around David Cohen, a wealthy
aspiring filmmaker who is mandated to attend the young adult program after a
confrontation with a police officer. He falls in love with the beautiful and
vivacious Sarah Silverstein and tries to convince her that they are both better
than their ‘Connections’ peers.
While Keep the Change is
most certainly a touching romantic comedy, it also showcases David’s journey
toward self-realization. Throughout the movie he considers the other autistic
adults in ‘Connections’ ‘abnormal.’ His parents perpetuate his rationale,
believing that his participation in the program is a blip in his summer plans.
When they learn about Sarah, they worry that David will end up with someone he
will have to take care of rather than dating someone who can care for him. He
later admits that he is ‘weird’ and different, and he likes Sarah because she is
‘weird’ and different too.
Autism is a complex developmental
disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with
1 in 59 children
in the US have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder in all racial,
ethnic and socioeconomic groups. While there are no clear-cut biological
markers of autism, many studies suggest that genes and environmental influences
act together to affect development that can lead to autism spectrum disorder. Fragile
X syndrome, passed from unaffected mothers to their male children, is the most commonly known genetic cause of autism
and other intellectual disabilities. In some cases, autism may run in the
family; however, even if a family has identical twins, there is still a chance
that one twin will have autism while the other will not.
My hope is that National Autism Awareness
Month inspires people to learn more about autism spectrum disorder. While there
is nothing uniquely Jewish about autism, we must identify the barriers
individuals with disabilities and their families face within the Jewish
community and around the world. This April, may we seek out ways to foster a
more inclusive community this month and every day.