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||IMDB Rating: 7.7/10 from TV-PG votes
||Release: 09 Aug 2004 /
||Director: Gregg Champion,
||Synopsis: The social stigma and discrimination of autistic children is present in the movie Miracle Run. The life of Corrine Morgan-Thomas, the mother of autistic twins Stephen and Philip, changes ...
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"Miracle Run" is not the first film to take on the subject of autism,
but it is likely the most affirmative, and that is something
I, myself, have Asperger's Syndrome, which puts me on the autistic
spectrum, something I didn't know the first time I saw this film. Yet,
even on the first viewing, something that caught my attention was the
scene where the young Steven Morgan is transfixed by an air conditioner
vent on the ceiling as he is being interviewed by a psychiatrist. This
is exactly something that happened to me when I was a few years older
than Steven was.
I bring this up because I feel autism and autistic spectrum
orientations are far more common than thought, and I have a feeling
many people watching this film have more in common with the Morgans
than they think they do. Because of this, the film has tremendous
importance. The Morgan twins, who were branded as hopeless when
children, and castigated in High School as "retards" for their manner
of speech and movement, neither were, nor are, hopeless or mentally
challenged. They simply think and learn differently.
The film somewhat makes these points. Somewhere in Corinne Morgan's
struggle to get appropriate education for her sons is the message that
our educational system is geared only for those capable of learning in
traditional ways. The film does say that once the boys have been taught
in a way that connects with their learning styles, they are fully
functional and able to not only be but excel in High School.
"Miracle Run" does make note of the remarkable abilities of its
protagonists, something alluded to at the very beginning by Phillip
watching a Superman cartoon. Indeed, even before the running gag begins
about the Morgans joining every club requiring intellectual or physical
skills in High School, there are vague suggestions of the remarkable
minds of these two. This is especially so in one scene where the young
Steven puts his hands on either side of the face of his new babysitter,
as if he is taking the measure of her as a person.
The question remains, however, is what is the film's attitude toward
autism, itself? Undoubtedly, this film very strongly asserts that
autistic children have the right to everything neurotically children
have. It also makes the argument that autistic children can display
incredible abilities such as Phillip's guitar playing, Steven's prowess
at cross-country, and both brothers' skills at chess, astronomy,
geography, etc. etc.
But at the very end it notes the foundation Corinne Morgan founded,
Miracle Run, has as its goal finding a _cure_ for autism. Obviously,
the situation Corinne finds herself in at the beginning of the film,
with two low functioning children, no assistance from the educational
system and indifference and fear from everyone else, is not a positive
one, nor one we, as a society, should allow to be perpetuated.
Yet, does this film say autistic people should be cured of the
remarkable capabilities they display? Hans Asperger, the pediatrician
who discovered the syndrome I have, never viewed it as a negative. In
the final analysis, "Miracle Run" seems to contradict everything else
it seems to be saying.
If that is the final message of this film, however, it does not make it
well, and perhaps, it is more obligatory than heartfelt. The film's
final message seems to be more about the triumph of the Morgan twins
and the "overcoming many obstacles" Steven speaks of in the speech he
gives in the film's last scene.
Speaking about other pluses of this film, its central focus is Mary
Louise Parker, who plays Corinne Morgan. Not unlike the way she plays
Ruth Jamison in "Fried Green Tomatoes," Parker displays an inner
radiant strength, endless determination, a sense of humor, and
dominance without being overbearing. The actors who play the Morgan
twins as teenagers also give riveting performances, particularly Zac
Efron as Steven. Efron shows great presence and manages to portray a
high functioning autistic without his acting becoming mechanical. Not
only does he engage our sympathy, he has us rooting for him throughout
the film, something that helps the film to work so well.
The film's music is also something that caught my attention. Every so
often an otherworldly chromatic theme steps in that seems to represent
the Morgans' qualities of being both different and transcendent. It
underlines every moment of aspiration in the film for both brothers,
and at the end, with Steven's amazing first race as a cross-country
runner, it is transformed into music of exultation.
This is an amazing film.
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