1986 / Director. Nick Castle.
A common sentiment in my writing is how wonderful and important I think the 70s and 80s were for family-friendly films. Before parents became overly sensitive about entertainment and started rolling their kids in bubble-wrap, films offered a lot more for young and impressionable minds. Adventure was encouraged and challenging issues were confronted. THE BOY WHO COULD FLY is one film that pushed things in a very serious and provoking way. It tells the story of Eric, a boy with autism. He has never spoken a word or acknowledged a single person in his life and he sits on his window-sill, pretending to fly. A new family moves next door and the 14 year old daughter's attention is fixated on this Eric. Her influence over him soon proves to be progressive and with the help of a high school teacher she works with him to try and break down the walls he's build around himself. It's quite a heavy movie with serious and dark issues. On the surface it's a straight-forward fantasy film but to a more mature audience the adventurous story about this mysterious boy masks underlying themes of mental health, depression, suicide, grief, alcoholism and bullying. Most kids will be lucky enough to come away from the movie recognising at least one of those issues but over time the film's lasting impression brings the other things to light. I've always liked the movie and the older I get the more I take from it. I do have issues with the fantasy being pandered to at times and wish they'd taken a more logical and provoking conclusion to the story... but nevertheless it's a potent and charming film that thankfully hasn't aged all that much. Aside from a few computer references and some attitudes towards autism, it's a timeless piece. Jay Underwood is great as the autistic Eric and the cast of supports are all wonderful too. Fred Savage, Lucy Deakins, Fred Gwynne and Bonnie Bedelia are all exceptional. I am particularly smitten with Colleen Dewhurst... she always had such a beautiful presence on screen. And then there's Louise Fletcher... hmm... poor Louise Fletcher... once a nurse, always a nurse. How grateful I am to have been a child before the cotton-wool age. Movies fuelled my imagination, encouraged me to think and stoked my sense of adventure. Ahhh. Now excuse me while I play with my pogo ball and untangle my slinky.