Autism is a tough topic to tackle on film. Not only do you run the risk of upsetting folks by misrepresenting the condition, but if you take it too far, drowning the viewers in the severity of the disorder, the film loses its entertainment value. Well, writer-director Janet Grillo has found a happy medium and that makes her first feature film, Fly Away, not only an honest and moving telling, but an enjoyable one, too.
The film stars Beth Broderick as Jeanne, the mother of an autistic child, Mandy (Ashley Rickards). Not only must Jeanne raise Mandy on her own, but ensure she’s getting the proper clinical attention and treatment, all while making a living. While Beth has managed over the years despite the absence of Mandy’s father, now that Mandy is reaching adulthood, she’s becoming tougher to control and Jeanne’s life begins to unravel.
Fly Away doesn’t side skirt the issue in the least. Mandy does have a rather severe case of autism and Grillo doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing how that effects Beth’s life at home, in public and at work. Yes, it can be tough to watch, but with Grillo’s understanding touch, Beth and Mandy’s story becomes a piece that’s not only extremely telling, but heartwarming as well.
Grillo’s had experience making short films, but Fly Away marks her feature debut. While it was quite the leap, thanks to her prior work, Grillo had a team dedicated to making a great film that would bring Grillo’s story to life in the most poignant way possible. Hear all about Grillo’s process making this film from deriving the story from her own personal experiences, to working with her cast, her hopes for the film now that it’s reached the public and so much more. Check it all out in the video interview below and be sure to catch Fly Away in theaters and on DVD now.
By Perri Nemiroff