Destiny Review

GameStop, Inc.

Screened at the Autfest Film Festival in association with the Autism Society of America, Destiny  is a touching film about a Chinese Mother raising her mildly autistic son. It’s interesting to see a foreign take on the topic of autism; it seems like within the past couple of decades awareness of the neurodevelopmental disorder has been extremely prevalent. Sesame Street has even recently introduced its own autistic character, Julia, to educate parents and children alike. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems China is a bit less progressive, at least that’s the impression this film gives me. Seeing the character of Xi being ostracized by adults at the young age of 10 years old is incredibly sad to witness. I’m well aware the film is fictitious, but there has to be some truth here for filmmaker Zhang Wei, the subject matter is handled so well it’s very apparent that autism is something he has firsthand knowledge of, or at the very least has researched in-depth.

The story follows Xi (played by Feng Jun) and his Mother (played by Liang Kingke). Xi is a mildly autistic child who has certain behavioral issues and repetitive patterns. Despite his classmates being generally accepting of his condition, it’s the parents who fulfill the role of antagonists. They bully Xi’s school Principal into kicking Xi out of school on the grounds that he’s disruptive and violent towards their children. Xi’s Mother is desperate for her child to have normal social interactions in the hopes that one day Xi’s life will have a sense of normalcy, but despite Xi’s high IQ it seems ignorance and fear will prevent him from staying in the school that he loves. Xi’s Mother also deals with Xi’s clueless and buffoonish Father (played by Zhao Ju). Xi’s Father doesn’t have to deal with Xi’s outbursts and social ineptitude anywhere near as his wife does, and this takes its toll on their marriage. Xi’s father isn’t necessarily a bad guy, he’s just completely oblivious to the challenges and struggles Xi’s Mother encounters on a daily basis.

Destiny has an added layer to it I don’t really want to spoil, but it involves Xi’s uncle and it informs his Mother’s insistence on Xi to have that anchor of normalcy he has with his schooling. These scenes towards the end of the film add context to her character, and that’s where the title of the film comes into play; is she destined to take on the role of caretaker for the rest of her life? Is there no escaping the problems that weigh so heavy on her shoulders? It’s a fascinating and tragically heartbreaking experience watching Xi’s Mother constantly on the verge of breaking down. We really get a true sense of what it’s like for a parent to care for a child with autism. We also get brief glimpses of other characters taking care of older, more severe people with autism. One scene heavily implies that a Grandmother decides to take her own life and that of her grandson’s after he escapes from their home and grabs a woman sexually. This scene was constantly in the back of my head as I watched Xi’s Mother deal with her stressful life more and more; it gives off this discomforting thought that all it takes is one bad day for Xi to break his Mother’s spirit permanently.

A film this emotional and this engaging simply needs to be seen. The version I saw had subtitles, and I know that’s a turnoff for some, but it’s well worth it to check out anyway. I can’t comment on the acting all that much, considering the film is in a different language and I have no frame of reference to the authenticity and believability, but I can say for certain that everyone involved has an unmistakable intensity to them. You feel for them, and you can even somewhat relate to the parents who unquestionably care about their children enough to stand up for them, as misguided and ignorant as they might be. The film is also shot beautifully, there’s this cool blue color prevalent throughout most of the film that gives it a very somber tone. All in all, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I highly recommend you find a way to track this film down.

Destiny Official Trailer:
http://bit.ly/Trailer_Destiny

 

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