The lovely, heartbreaking "Fly Away" benefits from superb performances and a gripping story managed with simplicity and grace by writer-producer-director Janet Grillo. As sensitive and affecting as this mother-daughter drama may be, the film skillfully bypasses its genre's potential pitfalls, opting for intimacy over sensationalism, poignancy over sentimentality.
Jeanne (Beth Broderick) is a single mother devoted to the care of her daughter, Mandy (Ashley Rickards), an autistic teenager soothed by repetition — songs, food, phraseology — but prone to uncontrollable outbursts and rages. It's an often untenable situation for the overwhelmed but deeply loving Jeanne as she juggles Mandy, a shaky career, her skittish ex-husband — and Mandy's father —Peter (JR Bourne), the surly principal (actress-comedian Reno) at Mandy's special-needs-oriented public school, and a budding romantic interest (Greg Germann, charming). Something's gotta give, though, and it's pointing toward placing Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility, a move the protective Jeanne cannot yet reconcile. It all makes for a powerful, authentic journey.