Around a year or two ago, I was officially diagnosed as an official person on the spectrum. I never really thought much of my diagnosis, with the exception of my panic attacks and moments of sensory overload. I never felt the need to tell anybody about my mental health condition, since I never found it relevant. The diagnosis was always something I would rarely remark about, simply out of avoiding any sensitive topics in regular day conversations.

When viewing Jerry Rothwell’s The Reason I Jump, I finally realized the importance and deep negligence I was doing to myself and others regarding the discussion on the current societal perspective of mental health awareness. As a 17 year old turning an adult in just a few couple hours, I believe that even with my minor drawbacks with my mental health, I should at least be continuously discussing mental health advocacy with my peers. The Reason I Jump makes a solid case for the importance of recognition. Just simply acknowledging someone’s key attributes isn’t enough.

Through trials and struggles, Autistic Youth are a deeply misunderstood minority in terms of representation in mental health education. Rarely do people actually truly understand the language barrier and state of mind of these beautiful, intelligent children. I myself have experienced the occasional moment of miscommunication, due to how I developed my speech relatively later than most children at my young age.

In The Reason I Jump, Rothwell follows five unique individuals and their personal journey through life. Shooting exclusive footage from around the globe including but not limited to India, the United States, and Sierra Leone; Rothwell’s determined direction and compelling voice lures his viewers into an important piece of investigative journalism. Accompanied by sublime anonymous narration and quotes from the novel of the same name written by Naoki Higashida, the interviewees demonstrate a strong sense of determination amidst their current mental health adversity. 

With all this being said and done, one of the more truly remarkable elements of The Reason I Jump is the technique in which Rothwell envisions the assembly of his doc. The editing team captures the stressful nature of sensory overload with quick brisk cuts and inventive usage of sound. Cutting and rapidly blurring the seams between different interviews with textiles, senses, and intricate little microscopic details; the end result almost feels as though we’re in the shoes of a young autistic individual. Sometimes, a lack of sound can lead to the most deafening results, where water and light are juxtaposed to create a sense of unease. The emotion and theatricality of this technique is more effective in the first opening twenty minutes or so, largely due to the film’s overlong profiles of its subjects. The result in final execution is a justified though unfocused scattershot rendition of what could have been potentially been the next major documentary landmark. 

The Reason I Jump is an inspiring piece of work. A beautiful film on the human condition and the importance of dialogue among minorities and larger groups, Rothwell’s film encourages advocacy without becoming borderline preachy. It’s an enlightening piece of documentary filmmaking, stitched together with a delicate thread of wholesomeness. To repeat once more, as a person who is on the spectrum, I’m glad more quality representation is being distributed for essential viewing. Sometimes, art is the best way to open enriching conversations; especially through film. 

THE REASON I JUMP screened at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, as part of World Showcase program.

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