Directed by: John Clark Starring: John Clark Documentary Film Review by: Darren Tilby
I Have Asperger’s: So What Now? Is the sequel to the well-received documentary, I Have Asperger’s: So What? And where the first film introduced John Clark and explored his childhood – specifically, the problems he faced from his peers and elders, as well as his condition – the sequel can be seen more as a cry for the understanding of the wider Asperger’s and autistic community, as well as those suffering from mental illness.
To this end, Clark’s first undertaking is to explore the regularity and manner in which people who could be considered on the autistic spectrum are portrayed in the media. After considering a broad range of films and TV shows (including Rain Man and The Big Bang Theory), Clark concludes that whilst there is indeed a more significant portrayal of autistic characters in popular tv-shows and movies now, yet more work needs to be done; lamenting that society's perception of hidden illnesses, in general, is still well off. During the movie’s 40-minute runtime, Clark tackles many thorny issues, including bullying, depression, suicide and the benefits system. As usual, Clark voices his opinions on all these subjects in an eloquent and easy to follow way, often revisiting his own experiences as a child in an attempt to garner advice for others: and what is the best piece of advice Clark can give? Acceptance.
Acceptance is the key to Asperger’s; you need to accept that you’re different; you need to accept that people will treat you differently, you need to accept and love who you are before you can really start to live — something we could all learn a little from.
It’s always nice to see a filmmaker address these sorts of things, and in this day and age, with mental health awareness and anti-bullying campaigns everywhere, it’s hard to see how it could have come at a better time.
I particularly enjoyed Clark’s discussion on anxiety issues. Being someone who suffers quite badly with anxiety problems myself, I could relate to much of what was being said; I too have had people tell me to “man up” or been told, “well you look fine.”
The importance of having people like Clark, who are willing to openly talk about their own experiences with depression and anxiety cannot be underestimated and serve as inspiration for us all.
From a filmmaking perspective, the first thing you notice as the film starts is both the music and editing have vastly improved over the prequel; feeling far less amateurish: the editing is smoother and less clunky and the music now compliments the atmosphere of the scene, rather than feeling like an afterthought. All of this speaks of a more confident and proficient filmmaker.
My only issue with this aspect of the movie is the occasional overuse and reuse of certain clips; some clips are used several times and others are taken directly from the prequel. This is merely a niggling complaint however and rarely ruined my enjoyment of the film.
The latter part of I Have Asperger's: So What Now? acts as an update to Clark’s current situation and details his struggles with holding down a job, having to move away from home and his support system, and dealing with the benefits system (something else I’ve also had the misfortune of having to deal with) and how – for people with learning disabilities and social problems – it isn’t fit for purpose.
But there’s some exceptionally good news too: Clark has identified various ways to aid him to address such issues; crediting writing, filmmaking, and exercise as great ways to keep his mind active, and, of course, his girlfriend, with whom he now lives serves as his support system. By the end of the movie, you get the feeling that, while things might not be going quite how he’d like, Clark is in a better place and looking toward the future.