alonso mayo, autism, autism spectrum disorder, being there, cary elwes, kenneth walsh, kristin bauer, lou taylor pucci, mackenzie munro, neurologically typical, neurotypical, peter sellers, sabryn rock, saw, seth green, the princess bride, the story of luke, thumbsucker, true blood, tyler stentiford
What happens when an autistic man loses the only stability he’s ever known? This is the basic question Alonso Mayo‘s The Story of Luke tries to answer. If you know anyone with autism or anything about the disorder, you know that routine is something that is of primary importance for most folks who fall onto the autism spectrum. If that routine is upset or modified without warning, it can really throw someone with autism for a loop, and that’s putting it mildly. So when Luke’s (Lou Taylor Pucci – Thumbsucker) grandmother dies, he is pushed out of the the only home he’s ever known. His uncle Paul (Cary Elwes – The Princess Bride and Saw) and aunt Cindy (Kristin Bauer – True Blood) take him in and put his grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) in a nursing home.
As one might expect, Luke doesn’t exactly do well in this transition. His grandfather, a bitter old man, gives him a piece of advice – assimilate, get a job and SCREW! Words that Luke takes very seriously and we’ll get back to that in a moment. Luke’s presence in his uncle’s home is a flashpoint for the family, who aren’t as stable as they’d like to appear. Paul and Cindy are on the rocks – Cindy is a bitchy drunk while Paul is a workaholic and absentee husband and father. Their two kids, Megan (Mackenzie Munro) and Brad (Tyler Stentiford), are typical teenagers who don’t get along with their parents whom they see as broken and out of touch. Not exactly the ideal environment for a young man with autism. Cindy is a more tame reprise of Pam, Kristin Bauer‘s character on True Blood, so in that regard she is cast well. At first she and Luke don’t get along. She sees Luke as a hindrance, a handicap for the family and an unwanted burden. Her inability to deal with her own children certainly doesn’t help her in dealing with a person who has a neurological disorder. When Luke decides to heed his grandfather’s words and tries to get a job, the two’s relationship comes to a head. But it’s clear that Cindy isn’t mad at Luke, she’s mad at herself, her husband and her life. And from here they form an unlikely bond. That Luke is able to teach the kitchen-challenged Cindy how to cook helps both of their standing in the house.
Luke goes to a center that helps differently-abled people find jobs and it’s here that he finds not only a job, but also the woman he chooses to pursue, Maria (Sabryn Rock). When he is placed in the job doing mail room work, he is greeted by the hostile son of the CEO of the Click & Easy, Zack (Seth Green). When it comes out later that Zack, too, is not “neurologically typical” the two learn from each other how to make their situations work best for them.
These relationships that Luke has are typical throughout the film. He, in his un-normalness, tends to change those around him, making them better as he betters himself. This film has a bright outlook for those with autism, especially for adults like Luke. I’m not so sure how typical Luke’s transition/coming of age is, though, however. Pucci‘s portrayal of Luke is admirable. I have a 7-year old son with an autism spectrum disorder so this is something on which I can speak with a fair amount of authority. I do appreciate that Luke is so literal in his talk, something that is very characteristic in most people who have an autism spectrum disorder and it serves him well and also creates some pretty funny moments. I couldn’t help but to think of Peter Sellers‘ Chance in Being There a few times when this occurred.
This film hit some really high notes for me and was a little muddled in parts. As a whole this film achieved what I took to be its aim – showing that people with autism are just as special as anyone else as Luke’s grandma told him. This is something I can unequivocally attest to as my son is the strongest, hardest working person I have ever met. To see that affirmed onscreen is a testament to Mr. Mayo, the cast and his crew. It is my hope that films like this one help bring attention to autism as serious problem in this country and everywhere. 1 in 88 children born in the United States today are diagnosed with the disorder. They have a lot to overcome in order to lead somewhat normal lives like Luke does in this film.
Here’s the trailer: