‘The Reason I Jump’ Review: Portraits of Autism


In the book “The Reason I Jump” published in 2007, author Naoki Higashida, who wrote it at the age of 13, hopes to explain “what goes on in the minds of people with autism”. Higashida, a non-speaking autistic person, structures the book as Q. and A. and answers questions like, “How do you write these sentences?” and “What do you think about autism itself?”

The film adaptation, directed by Jerry Rothwell (the documentary about Greenpeace “How to change the world”) is both an addition and an attempt to find a cinematic analogue. Using excerpts from Higashida’s writing as a narrative, the stories of five non-speaking autistic people on four continents are told, using at times the tools of filmmaking to approximate sensory experiences similar to those discussed. The soundtrack emphasizes the creaking of trampoline springs and the crawling steps of caterpillars.

The portraits are moving and informative. In India, Amrit’s amazing drawings culminate in a gallery show. In Sierra Leone, Jestina faces a stigma against children who cannot look after their aging parents. Ben and Emma of Arlington, Virginia, formed a decade-long friendship that began in preschool before they both communicated on a letter board.

However, for aesthetic reasons, “The Reason I Jump” is questionable, regardless of how sensitive the filmmakers were in their approach. It is presumptuous to assume that a mere movie, even for a moment, could simulate the inner world of an autistic person. And sometimes – like when mystical choral music plays while Amrit draws – the filmmakers’ distant perspective is all too clear.

The reason I jump
Not rated. In English and Krio with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes. Watch virtual cinemas.