Mozart and the Whale - WikipediaWhen Jerry and Mary Newport met, the connection was instant. A musical genius and a mathematical wonder, the two shared astronomic IQs, but they also shared something else—they both were diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that affects millions of Americans and makes social contact painfully unbearable. When Jerry and Mary married, they were catapulted into the limelight. They appeared on 60 Minutes and soon were known as "superstars in the world of autism," shining examples of two people who refused to give up in the face of their mutual challenge. But just when it appeared that their lives would enjoy a fairy-tale ending, their marriage fell apart. The Hollywood feeding frenzy was too much to handle, and they divorced.
Mozart and the Whale
The realization that "our community seemed to know more about the first twenty years of an autistic person's life than it did about the rest of that life" leads the Newports to tell their own boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-finds-girl love story—but with a difference, for both suffer from Asperger's syndrome. At times, this "terminal cluelessness" seems both the cause of and the least of their problems: Jerry's life "had drifted from one failed vocation to the next, [among them] pot dealer, horse-race betting fanatic, taxi driver, Goodwill bell ringer, bookstore cashier, elementary school librarian. Both grapple with anxiety and despair before epiphanies: for Jerry, when he sees Rain Man ; for Mary, when her brother directs her to the Autistic Society. Love for the two slips in the day they meet at a party for adult autistics. Then they experienced media fame, becoming "Mr. Autism" a front-page profile in the Los Angeles Times ; a 60 Minutes visit; an eponymous movie.
I first watched the film Mozart and the Whale several years ago and have since viewed it numerous times. I just saw it again recently and felt moved to offer my perspective on the film drawing upon my experiences as an advocate in the autism community and as the president of Spectrum at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro a campus organization I co-founded for students with autism. He leads a small support group comprised mostly of young adults with varying degrees of autism. Donald is a mathematical savant who can instantly come up with the correct answer for very difficult equations and who resorts to thinking in numbers in any given circumstance, whether during his cab route or in a casual conversation. Clearly, this functions as his particular way of not only determining how to approach a particular situation, but it also serves to calm him down in moments of extreme anxiety. This is demonstrated during the aforementioned scene when Donald accidentally drives into a flower truck, spilling its contents all over the front of his cab, and promptly leaves the scene without addressing the angry demands of the truck owner or the needs of his puzzled passengers. I just — never know what to say.
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Donald Morton Josh Hartnett is a taxi driver and drives two Japanese passengers and his pet cockatiel around Spokane , Washington. Distracted, he bumps into the back of a florist's van, damaging his stock. Unfazed, Donald and his budgie take their groceries and leave, abandoning his taxi cab and passengers. He takes his groceries to the self-help group for autistic adults. Before they head to the park to meet another autistic group, he tells one member, Gracie Rusty Schwimmer , to gather the women and he'll gather the guys to practice telling personal stories, but keeps getting distracted by performing mathematical sums of the microwaves' depleting numbers. He notices that Isabelle Sorenson Radha Mitchell , a new name, has signed up and tells Gracie to let her go first. At the park, Isabelle tells the women of a childhood memory: she saw that her parents were happy an Olympian had broken a record, so in order to please her parents, and taking what she heard literally, she broke their music records.
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