Nine for IX Shorts: Think Normal (2014)

Directed by Nikki Reed

I admittedly do not have first hand interaction with Autism. I know people that know people who have it, but have not been affected by it directly. I should count myself lucky, or perhaps not. We are often touched with great stories from people with Autism. One such story, which I remember fondly, is that of Jason McElwain, a high school senior who had been the basketball team’s manager all through his career. However, on senior night, the coach decided to put him in the game, and after airballing his first shot, Jason proceeded to nail multiple three pointers, becoming a national inspiration. But since this is a Nine for IX film, Think Normal is less about Jason and more about the powering force behind him, his mother Debbie.

Every child faces difficulties, growing pains, periods of self doubt and awkwardness, finding friendships and finding which path to take in life. Jason’s childhood was even more difficult. Faced with the limitations of autism, Jason found a way to find his voice, to make friends, to become “normal”. I really don’t like that word, “normal”, but in many ways it is what we all strive for, even though we may have varying definitions of normalcy. However, as Jason became “normal”, he never really was normal. He was and is a special man, but in those times of his childhood, his mother gave so selflessly of herself in order for his child to discover his true talent and true place in this world. That is what makes the film universal and also what makes the film so powerful.

Debbie McElwain’s interviews in the film are nothing more than brutally honest. She admits to her faults, and we find she has lost friends along the way, has lost, to be completely honest, has lost a part of her own life by her devotion to Jason. This vulnerability is portrayed with no drama or pity. Instead she speaks frankly, proudly of her accomplishments as a mother. That is what makes this a Nine of IX film. That is what makes it special. If it weren’t for the strength and determination of Debbie, would that moment on the basketball court have ever happened for Jason? Would he be normal? Perhaps a better question is would he be special?

*** 1/2 – Great

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