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towerposter5 The film opens this evening at the Royal Cinema in Toronto. In anticipation of this event, I thought that I would repost my review for the film, which was originally posted as part of my coverage of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Enjoy. According to the Q&A after the screening, the film Tower was not intentionally meant to be about Asperger's Syndrome. However, as someone who has Asperger's and was able to greatly relate with the main character of the film, I will say that I believe that Tower is probably the most genuine and unbiased cinematic portrayal of this Austism Spectrum Disorder than I have ever seen. Derek (Derek Bogart) is a 35 year old man who lives in his parent's basement. He makes ends meet by working part time for his uncle's construction company, but his true passion is animation and he spends hours working on a CGI short about a turtle. Derek is not an introverted person, but he is also not a very social person. In fact, some watching the film may view him as arrogant, stubborn, and selfish.

The film has no real beginning and no real end and is instead just a snapshot of Derek's life over a short period of time. There are four major story streams that happen during the film: Derek's reluctance to develop his love of animation into a possible career, his new relationship with a girl named Nicole (Nicole Fairbairn), his interactions with an Irish co-worker, and most oddly, his obsession with raccoons in the backyard.

As someone with Asperger's Syndrome, I'm guessing that I reacted to Derek's actions differently than the rest of the moviegoers. A lot of the things that Derek said and did were met with laughter by the audience, which really made me start to feel uncomfortable. I actually talked to the director Kazik Radwanski about this after the screening and he surmised that it was probably more of an uncomfortable laughter, since they did not know how to react to Derek.

I for one greatly empathized with Derek, even though he comes off as a pretty unlikable character on screen. He is a guy that likes the status quo and prefers to go through life on his own terms. He is afraid to commit to any major development in his life, such as a career or a relationship. He also states on multiple occasions that he does not want anyone to think that he is a weirdo, despite his somewhat weird thoughts and behaviours.

There is one poignant, yet non-spoilerish, scene within the film that has Derek outright ignore a couple guys speaking to him while he eating a hot dog. The guys instantly think there is something wrong with Derek, because he won't speak with them. However, I can relate to this action as being a method to avoid unwanted social interactions. There's another scene in the film, which has a crazed old man loudly singing an anti-Stephen Harper version of the Canadian National anthem. Despite being the one making a public scene, the man comes up to Derek and calls him out for “looking nervous,” which gives off the impression that the man thought that Derek's discomfort stood out more than his public singing.

I could probably talk forever about how Tower related to me personally. There is one scene late in the film, which I can't describe because it's a major spoiler, that nearly had me in tears. This is because Derek makes an absolutely stupid decision in this scene and I was getting upset at both his actions and the reaction of the audience (once again I bring up the laughter). It was definitely the hardest scene for me to watch and, even though I don't want to describe it, you will probably know it when you see it.

Well, that's enough talking about Tower. It will definitely end up being one of the hidden gems I see at the festival this year and I am happy to have seen a cinematic portrayal of Asperger's, intentional or not, which shows the condition in a very genuine light.


This post was proofread by Grammarly 

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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