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Review of Keep the Change (USA) to be shown at the Wpg International Jewish Film Festival - a rom-com about two autistic people

April 26, 2018

Reviewed by Jane Enkin       janeenkinmusic.com

 

Keep the Change gets its start with a group of people on the autism spectrum in a Jewish Community Centre program. What follows has many of the features of a typical rom-com – the couple meet, there's tension between them, then romance blossoms, complete with strolls through Manhattan's Central Park.

 

The film is funny and romantic, and also distinctive, largely because of its cast. The leads and all their friends are played by actors, some professional and most not, who are “neurodivergent” rather than “neurotypical,” in the words of director Rachel Israel. The performers work-shopped with the director to develop characters based, to a certain extent, on their own personalities. I marvelled at the strength and charm of these people, and also at their variety. None of them are brilliant savants, as in films like “The Rain Man;” each just finds a way toward confidence. The film reminded me of the interdependence that each of us shares.

 

Lovelorn David (played with warmth and sensitivity by Brandon Polansky, whose own experiences inspired the film) searches for a partner through internet dating sites, with no success, although he tries to convince his parents that he's had some girlfriends. David's parents waver between frustration at David's limitations and denial that he really has a disability. Forced to attend a group at the JCC, David tries to maintain his cool, detachment from the arts and crafts, drama games, and training in conversation skills.

 

Ironic David is partnered in an exercise with outgoing, sincere Sarah, and rom-com sparks fly. Sarah is exuberantly played by Samantha Elisofon, a vibrant delight. David and Sarah each find it hard to get by in social situations – David copes with detachment and a repertoire of mostly terrible jokes. Sarah just lets her natural enthusiasm bubble forth, talking too much. There are very funny scenes with each of them using these survival tactics. Together, they relax and discover new depths in themselves and one another.

 
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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