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Miracle Run
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10 from TV-PG votes
Release: 09 Aug 2004 /

Miracle Run

Genre: Drama
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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Critic Reviews

"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 significant.

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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