San Diego 6 morning anchor Lynda Martin shares the personal impact of a new film about love, life and Asperger's Syndrome.
"He’s a handsome but odd fellow.” That’s one description of the character Adam in the new Fox Searchlight film of the same name. It could also be said about my twin brother Lee.
Earlier this month I was invited by NFAR to attend a special advance screening of Adam, a film about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives alone in New York and falls in love… an awkward love unlike anything you’ve seen before. So of course, in watching this movie, childhood memories of my twin brother come flooding back.
I remember Lee said once, “Lynda, do you remember that one night when we were 4, eating corn and chicken in the woods by Aunt Elsie's house?”
I laughed and replied, “How could I possibly remember that? That was one among thousands of meals we shared in life.” I sift through memories, he stores them. That's just the way it is. When we were little, I would try to drag Lee into my own sense of normalcy. I didn't know why he acted different, nor did I really care, I just wanted him to play games with me. As I look at old family videos now, there I am, dragging Lee by the wrist into the sandbox or across a park. He allowed himself to be dragged, yet he'd never really engage, instead looking off into the distance, far away… to some place else in his head.
Growing up, we moved often so just as people came to understand this kid who was different, we were off to a new state and a new school. I'd feel that protective sister in me well up but not really knowing what to do except to say, "Leave him alone!"
Still, he had no diagnosis. Our family knew Lee was different, even “he” knew he was different, but no one knew exactly how or what to do about it. Lee got along okay, he wasn't alone because he had his brothers and sisters… but he didn't have any real friends.
As an adult in his 20s, he was diagnosed as having Asperger's. It was a relief for our family and for him. Finally, we had an answer that made sense.
Today, it truly is amazing to see how much he's changed since those early days. Lee lives alone, he has a job, he even got his driver's license! He has a great coach in Northern California who comes by a few times a day to help him with his grocery shopping or errands and to make sure he's up and out of the apartment for work. He keeps his place neat as a pin and has a great knack for growing healthy plants. Best of all, Lee has friends. Just the other day, I told him I was coming into town to visit family. Lee replied that he was sorry, but he going camping with friends. As much as I wanted to see him, the fact that he was busy and had something else to do warmed my heart.
I know many people who watched the special screening of Adam with me have family members with Autism or Asperger's and similarly felt an emotional connection to this film.
In talking with the film's star Hugh Dancy after the screening, I was struck the most by his approach to developing the titular character. While he did the pre-requisite research and observation to understand Asperger’s Syndrome before filming, Hugh's main focus was developing the role as an individual person falling in love with another, not as just a diagnosis. And that is why the story made such an impact with me. Brilliantly written and acted, I was really touched by this film because it captures a realistic glimpse of the social struggles a person on the autism spectrum has in today's society.
Now playing at Landmark Cinema’s Hillcrest and La Jolla Village locations, Adam will inspire you, even if you're not personally touched by autism or Asperger's, to understand that differences are beautiful. Yes, falling in love with someone with Asperger's is easy, as so many of us know who have a friend or family member with it. Seeing firsthand how my brother Lee has blossomed as he's gotten older has given me hope. Hope that he’ll find love and more independence every day. And hope that movies like Adam will help people continue to understand.
For local screening times and more information on Adam, please vist the film's website.