Mock-documentary Ben X introduces us to teen Asperger’s sufferer Ben. Moving backwards and forwards between his so-called life of bullying and high school torture and his escape into online role-playing games, the film’s doom laden narrative is led by various talking heads recalling some seemingly awful event.
Ben is a misunderstood victim, loner and oddball; his frustrations bring on claustrophobic angst because of his inability to convey what is happening to him. However, writer/director Nic Balthazar’s debut feature dodges and ducks where you expect it to run straight. Every time you think the game is up for Ben (which, considering his fascination with knives, suicide and general death, is most of the time) he veers off towards a different ending.
The role-playing game element allows us to see Ben as he wants to be – freed of his disability, chivalrous, shy, kind and brave. What strikes a chord is that despite his self-perpetuating isolation, it’s only when Ben learns to let other people into his world to help him and work together that he beats the bullies and starts to enjoy life. If no man is an island, Ben X dares suggest that autistic autocracies can be touched and even altered by the communal.
Selected release from Fri 29 Aug.