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Fly Away Film Review

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Autistic Teen at Center of Poignant Coming-of-Age Drama

As the mother of a rapidly-maturing child with autism, Jeanne (Beth Broderick) finds herself torn between being overprotective and encouraging Mandy's (Ashley Rickards) independence. Presently, the rambunctious 15 year-old attends a regular public school with a program for special needs kids.

However, her principal recently suggested that Mandy might be better off institutionalized in the wake of a game-changing outburst which simply couldn't be ignored. For throwing a desk at a classmate during a temper tantrum means that she isn't just a danger to herself, but to others as well.

Even though it's clear that Mandy's becoming a greater and greater burden, Jeanne is reluctant to surrender the responsibility of raising her daughter to strangers. After all, as a single-mom she's made compromises in terms of her career, working at home in order to be available 24-7.

It doesn't help matters that her ex-husband Pete (J.R. Bourne) fails to engage with Mandy emotionally during visitation, and that he is already inclined to have her institutionalized. The trouble is that Jeanne has to admit that the right program could actually do her daughter a world of good, especially since there will ultimately come a day when her parents will no longer be around.

Thus, when to let go is the theme of Fly Away, a poignant coming-of-age drama directed by Janet Grillo. The mother of a child with disabilities, Ms. Grillo approached the semi-autobiographical adventure more as a consciousness-raising labor of love than as a money-making enterprise.

What makes the film special is its delicate handling of such sensitive subject-matter in realistic fashion without ever pandering via cheap sentimentality. The net result is a sobering slice of cinema verite which paints a plausible picture of a family dealing with the dilemma of how to care for a loved one when it's clear they're in over their heads.

An authentic tale of survival offering insight, hope and wings!

Excellent (3.5 stars)


Running time: 80 minutes

Distributor: New Video

To see a trailer Fly Away, visit:

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

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