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Review: 'A Mother's Courage' shows one mother's quest to help her autistic son

September 23, 2010|By Michael Ordoña

The world of autism seems truly mysterious and daunting: A neurological disorder that short-circuits communication in the brain and in severe cases can make a prison of the mind. Imagine how frustrating that darkness, the density of that persistent fog, must be to parents struggling to communicate with autistic children.

Despite its unfortunate title, the new documentary "A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism" is a largely unsentimental journey into these murky waters. It follows Margret, an Icelandic woman with a severely impaired 11-year-old son, as she looks for answers in America and Europe. Temple Grandin, the famed animal-science professor and subject of a recent HBO movie who was diagnosed at age 4, gives extremely illuminating explanations of what the condition affects, and what the world can be like to someone affected. Families raising multiple autistic children describe how they live with the disorder and various experts discuss theories of its causes.

But Fridrik Thor Fridrikkson's film (narrated by Kate Winslet) really kicks into gear when Margret comes to a Texas clinic where a tiny, determined Indian woman named Soma Mukhopadhyay is applying a technique called Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) with the goal of unlocking the sufferer's ability to communicate with the world — with startling results.

It's heart-rending to watch families struggle mightily to simply connect with stricken kids. Even skeptical viewers (such as this one) will be amazed, though, to see the instances of progress captured in this beautifully shot, fascinating film.

"A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Playing at the Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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