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Join Ezra on a journey
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Embark on a cross country road trip, learning more about autism spectrum disorder, in Ezra, now showing at Ster-kinekor cinemas, writes ANGELIQUE MOGOTLANE.

Ezra is a captivating drama that explores the complexities of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The film centres on Ezra, an eleven-year-old boy navigating the world with ASD while on a cross-country road trip with his father.

Ezra, played by William Fitzgerald, lives by unique routines, intense fixations, and an endearing honesty that disarms adults.Bobby Cannavale delivers a nuanced performance as Max Brande, Ezra’s father. Max, a once-successful stand-up comedian, struggles to balance the demands of his career with the challenges of raising Ezra. The name Ezra, meaning “help” in Hebrew, becomes a poignant motif throughout the film, reflecting Max’s unwavering desire to support and connect with his son.

The movie tackles the complexities of co-parenting and divorce. Rose Byrne portrays Jenna, Ezra’s mother, who advocates for a more structured approach to help Ezra navigate the world. We see the strain on the relationship between Jenna and Max as they grapple with differing viewpoints on how best to support Ezra.

Tension arises from Max’s resistance to traditional methods of treatment for ASD, such as medication or specialised schooling. This creates friction with Ezra’s therapists, educators, and even Jenna. However, Max’s love for his son is undeniable, and his frustration stems from a genuine desire to see Ezra thrive on his own terms.

A turning point comes when Max, in a moment of desperation and paternal love, makes a controversial decision. He takes Ezra on a spontaneous cross-country road trip, essentially abducting him. This unexpected adventure becomes a catalyst for growth and understanding.

The journey becomes a transformative experience for both father and son. Along the way, they meet a variety of characters in encounters that equip Max with valuable tools and techniques to connect with Ezra.

Ezra is not simply a story about overcoming challenges; it’s a celebration of the unique beauty of neurodiversity. The film avoids clichés, instead portraying Ezra’s world with authenticity and empathy. We see his struggles with social interaction, sensory sensitivities, and meltdowns, but also his intelligence, humour, and capacity for deep affection.

The film’s strength lies in its relatable storylines, stellar performances, and its ability to raise awareness about ASD. Cannavale’s portrayal of a flawed but loving father resonates deeply. Robert De Niro delivers a memorable performance as Max’s gruff father, Stan, who himself exhibits autistic traits – as does Max himself. The portrayal of Stan adds another layer to the film’s exploration of the potential hereditary nature of ASD.

Ezra is a powerful reminder of the importance of acceptance and early intervention for children with ASD. The film’s message is beautifully encapsulated in Max’s line: “Autism comes from the Greek, ‘in your own world.’ I don’t want him in his own world, I want him in this world.” This quote reflects Max’s unwavering belief in Ezra’s potential and his desire to help his son integrate and thrive.

The unfolding scenes effortlessly draw the audience into the narrative, allowing them to become fully immersed in Ezra’s journey and fostering a genuine emotional connection, eliciting empathy towards his character.

What truly distinguishes its excellence is the resonance of its storylines and the exceptional calibre of acting showcased throughout. Moreover, its profound awareness and sensitive portrayal of ASD contribute significantly to its impact.

The movie is directed by Tony Goldwyn, known for his work on films like Conviction and A Walk on the Moon. It is written by Tony Spiridakis, and it also stars Geoffrey Owens, Alex Plank and Whoopi Goldberg. The film’s music subtly accentuates the emotional evolution of the characters, and the cinematography captures the beauty of the open road during Max and Ezra’s road trip.

Ezra is a must-see for anyone interested in an authentic portrayal of autism. It’s a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll, prompting reflection, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the autistic experience.

Watch Ezra at Ster-Kinekor cinemas starting today, 31 May.

 *Angelique Mogotlane is a Content Manager and writer for Follow her on Twitter @Angelique135i.

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