Friday, September 10, 2010

Today’s Man: A Documentary Film

What will happen to all the autistic children when they grow up? Who’s going to care for them, employ them, love them? What about when their parents can’t be there to manage things? These are a few of the tough questions that are explored in the haunting 2006 film, Today’s Man, by Lizzie Gottlieb, which chronicles six years in the life of her brother Nicky, diagnosed at the age of 21 with Asperger’s.

Adults with Asperger’s often struggle with a world where they don’t quite fit in. They’re often bright and talented, but chronically underemployed. Frequently they long for connection, but too often they can’t find a social circle of their own, and spend time alone or only with family. Many Asperger’s adults long to date, but can’t find a romantic partner.

Nicky Gottlieb, now in his late 20s, deals with all of these issues in this film. Until he was an adult, his Asperger’s was undiagnosed, but his family knew he was always different. He had extraordinary abilities, such as unusual math and language skills, but almost no ability to read social cues or manage the responsibilities of daily living. The film features Nicky’s New York family of loving, quirky intellectuals, including his sister Lizzie, the film’s producer. Nicky’s attempts to find employment are documented, showing his difficulty in coping with the boredom and rules of his job.  We also follow Nicky to a support group session, featuring some of the familiar faces from GRASP.

The film is tough because, as in life, there are no easy answers, and the story doesn’t wrap up neatly. I found myself searching online for the next chapter of his story, but couldn’t find much of an update. The genuine love and caring of this family shine through the film, and Nicky’s spirit inspires, so this is a film that you’ll remember long after the viewing is over.