The Reason I Jump (5 stars)

The Reason I Jump

Extremely insightful documentary exploring the experiences of non-speaking autistic people

Great documentaries really open your eyes and, for those who know little of autism and even some who think they know a lot, The Reason I Jump may prove something of a revelation. This unusual and immersive film from director Jerry Rothwell hopes to shine a light on a hidden world, introducing us to some remarkable characters and showing the scale of the difficulties faced by them and their families.

It's based on the ground-breaking 2007 autobiography of Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old non-verbal autistic boy from Japan, though some dispute whether he could have possibly produced the text himself. Nevertheless, the film presents his insights persuasively, alongside the experiences of several other young non-speaking autistic individuals from around the world, challenging our preconceptions as it illustrates both the common characteristics and varied manifestations of autism.

The English author David Mitchell (number9dream, Cloud Atlas) is one of the contributors. He and his Japanese wife Keiko Yoshida translated Higashida's memoir in 2013, after it helped them understand the experiences and behaviour of their own autistic son. Higashida's words form the film's dreamily conveyed narration (read by Jordan O'Donegan), accompanied by images of a young boy (played by Jim Fujiwara) roaming wild and free.

Highlighting the heightened perceptions, specific talents, affectionate natures and overwhelming existences of those living with autism, Rothwell travels across the globe; taking us from India where we meet incredible autistic artist Amrit Khurana, to the USA where Ben McGann has learnt to spell and express himself with the help of a speech therapist and has maintained a lifelong friendship with autistic woman Emma Budway, who has benefitted comparably from such breakthroughs. We experience the heartbreak of the family of Broadstairs resident Joss Dear, whose frustrations often bubble over into unmanageable anger, while the parents of Jestina Penn-Timity are educating their Sierra Leone community about their beloved daughter's condition, against a backdrop of misinformation and superstition.

Coming in at a mere 82-minutes, the film takes us on a brief but beautiful journey full of hope for a future where autism might be more effectively treated and understood. Turning on their head many widely-held assumptions and acting as a valuable platform for autistic people to express themselves, The Reason I Jump helps us to further understand the experiences of neurodiverse individuals.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 18 Jun.

The Reason I Jump

  • 5 stars
  • 2021
  • UK, US
  • 1h 22min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jerry Rothwell
  • Written by: Naoki Higashida
  • Cast: Jim Fujiwara, David Mitchell, Jordan O'Donegan
  • UK release: 18 June 2021

A documentary exploring the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people, through the perspective of 5 youngsters. Based on the book by Naoki Higashida.