As a filmmaker and an individual with autism, I have come across many people on the spectrum and I know the hardships that come along with raising autistic children (despite not raising any myself). It can be a challenge. It can be a surprise. It’s never quite what anyone expects. Even my own mother has admitted she was unsure of me at first. Love, Hope and Autism tells the story of a father named Robert Fresco and his twin children. Specifically, it dwells deep on the subject of his son Fraser, who’s high-functioning unlike his sister Hallee, who is in fact, the polar opposite. In the beginning, Robert and Shannon took advantage of the time with their newborn children by recording their antics because Robert works as a cinematographer. Shortly after the twins turned 2, the parents realized Fraser had acted rather differently at times. So one appointment to the Doctor’s office later, the diagnosis was noted: He had autism. At first, it made the family uncomfortable, but Robert managed to take it in stride. He then realized he would be the right kind of person to father an autistic child and spent most of his father-son time recording the happenings of Fraser as he explored the world around him. But that caused a major snag, as Hallee wasn’t entirely focused on during her childhood. On top of that, the family had to move out of the countryside due to both kids not having much adult supervision at age 3. The rest of the documentary pretty much tells all the hardships that everyone went through during the twin’s childhood. Hallee had some abstract viewpoints about her father, Robert was often confused from what he heard, and Fraser had his own stimulation issues. Moving from one place to another wasn’t always easy either.
As the documentary advances, we learn more about the family, how they’re managing today, and what they do to mend the issues within their lives. It also focuses on the inner perspectives of Fraser’s teachers. The documentary is heartwarming, gratifying, and edgy at times. You can really feel the emotions of the family as they describe some of the tough issues, from Hallee’s troubled past, to the day Fraser disappeared off a cliff’s edge. The b-roll is professionally done and the story itself is one of the best that’s ever been described. Of all the documentaries I’ve seen, this is the best so far. Helen Slinger showcases her efforts as a director by really digging deep into the subject matter and showing the hidden value of a heart-wrenching real life story. People can learn a lot about what it’s like to raise an autistic individual, and understand what happens when they reach adulthood. But at the same time, they learn who it affects the most. It’s beautifully made, and I would recommend watching it. Love, Hope, and Autism is scheduled to premiere March 18 on CBC Docs POV.