Blog Directory CineVerse: When David met Sarah

When David met Sarah

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Entertainment offerings depicting autistic characters seeking romance have started to emerge over the last several years, as evidenced by the popularity of Netflix’s Love on the Spectrum and documentaries like Autism in Love. A worthy cinematic example is Keep the Change, a 2017 romantic comedy directed by newcomer Rachel Israel that defies expectations and proves to be as funny and refreshing as it is touching and truthful. Last week, our CineVerse assignment was to parse this picture carefully and mine its merits, which are summarized below (click here to listen to a recording of our group discussion).

What struck you as memorable, impactful, resonant, and unexpected about Keep the Change?

  • This is certainly a romcom, but it doesn’t fall into many of the traps and protectable formulas that many romantic comedies suffer from. There isn’t a “meet cute,” the two primary characters aren’t necessarily adorable leads – each has issues and problematic quirks – there isn’t a lovable sidekick, there is no speechifying, soliloquy-giving, or grand gesture, and the ending isn’t guaranteed to be happy.
  • Wisely, the filmmakers chose to cast autistic individuals at different levels on the autism spectrum, including non-professional actors, which adds authenticity and veracity to the movie and its characters. The performers playing David and Sarah are more or less being themselves without having to act much.
  • The picture doesn’t try to evoke pity for autistic individuals or overtly manipulate us emotionally. Instead, it presents these characters organically and naturally by casting real people with autism.
  • Additionally, Keep the Change isn’t trying to be a message movie or the “definitive cinematic statement on autism.” It tells a simple story about love and friendship featuring two characters who happen to be autistic.
  • The film has plenty of comedic moments that tonally balance the dramatic portions.

Major themes

  • The universality of the human experience, despite disability. This is a film that is intended to open our eyes to how differently-abled people really aren’t that different from most of us. They can feel and express the same emotions as any of us, including joy, sadness, shame, physical attraction, and anger. While some autistic individuals are more highly functioning than others, many are capable of living relatively independently and engaging in meaningful relationships and interests.
  • Opposites attract. Sarah and David are distinctly different personalities who don’t necessarily have much in common other than physical desire and a need for companionship. But they learn to compromise and express empathy. David, while seemingly suffering from a milder form of autism, can be offputting with his controversial sense of humor and outspoken nature, while Sarah, although optimistic and complimentary, can be socially awkward and na├»ve.

Similar works

  • Atypical
  • Love on the Spectrum (Netflix reality TV show)
  • A Kid Called Po
  • Adam
  • Autism in Love (documentary)
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • Please Stand By
  • Jack of Red Hearts

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