Review: If You Could Say it in Words [Asperger Love Story] – October Premiere


If You Could Say it in Words is a great new film about an autistic protagonist Nelson and his experience with love. The film is premiering at the Derby City Film Festival on October 8, 2008 at 9:00 PM. I wrote about my initial impressions of the movie and conducted an interview in February. You will also find clips from the movie in my previous article.

The film explores Nelson’s Asperger’s Syndrome without mentioning the diagnosis. The choice is intentional because many individuals with Asperger’s remain undiagnosed. A recent documentary, Billy the Kid, similarly did not mention the protagonist’s Asperger diagnosis, but If You Could Say it in Words is the first narrative feature film I’ve come across that explores Autism in such depth without hitting the audience over the head over and over again with the fact that it’s about autism. Additionally, the film appeals to an audience greater than the autistic community because the questions it raises about love apply to autistics and neurotpyicals alike.

Alvin’s performance as Nelson is quite possibly the most authentic portrayal of an autistic person that I’ve ever seen in the movies. Unlike the usual stereotypically overblown representation of autism so common in the media, Nelson’s character more closely resembles someone you could know in real life. Nelson doesn’t count cards at the casino and faces the same realationship problems that many of us have had. And it’s quite likely that at least a couple people you know do have an undiagnosed case of autism. Autism occurs in 1 in 150 people and many more go undiagnosed. Despite what you may gather from the media, the stereotypical image of a child who cannot talk is an extreme and, like Nelson, many autistic individuals go through life without ever discovering that they are autistic.

It’s refreshing to finally see a film that explores an autistic individual who isn’t two dimensional. You’ll find you have more similarities with Nelson than differences. And that’s the way you should feel about a movie’s protagonist because the best movies are the ones with which we can all relate.

Deliberate audio and visual choices emphasize the disconnect between Nelson and everyone else. The disorientating atmosphere created at times by the film in reference to Nelson reminds me of what it’s like to get a sensory overload. Thus, If You Could Say it in Words proves that it is possible to make a movie about an autistic person without stereotypically relying on the character melting down every other scene.

I plan on attending the premiere in October and suggest you do the same. The director, Nicholas Gray has become an ally to the autistic community since he began working on this film.

For more information, here’s the press release:

World Premiere of “If You Could Say It In Words” at Derby City Film Festival; Will Open Festival as First Feature Film

WHAT: World Premiere of “If You Could Say It In Words” at the Derby City Film Festival

WHO:  Writer/director and Louisville native Nicholas Gray
Actor Alvin Keith (Broadway and regional theater veteran), Marin Ireland (Obie-award winner, major roles in upcoming films The Understudy, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men)
Co-producers Katharine Clark Gray and Adam Eisenstein

WHEN:  October 8, 2008 at 9:00 PM
WHERE:  Louisville Memorial Auditorium
                970 South Fourth Street
                Louisville, KY 40203
CONTACT: Adam Eisenstein, 646-221-2254

LOUISVILLE, [date of release] – If You Could Say It In Words, a film written and directed by Louisville native Nicholas Gray, will have its world premiere on October 8 at 9:00 p.m. on the opening night of the Derby City Film Festival at the Louisville Memorial Auditorium.

If You Could Say It In Words is a nuanced, uncompromising look at a romance in which a painter with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome challenges a young woman’s conventional ideas and his own understanding of love.

Nelson (Alvin Keith) has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that impairs social function.  Undiagnosed, poor, African-American, and a painter, he is pushed to society’s fringes.  He meets Sadie (Marin Ireland), a young woman with broken dreams who now treads water at a job that’s not her career, has a roommate who’s not her friend, and sleeps with her married boss, Mark (Gerry Lehane). A one-night stand grows into an unlikely romance wherein two people lost in different ways begin to find themselves through each other. But the conventional expectations imposed by others — and by Sadie — put their relationship in jeopardy.
Alex Plank, founder of autism advocacy website, says “Alvin [Keith]‘s performance as Nelson is quite possibly the most authentic portrayal of an autistic person that I’ve ever seen in the movies…It’s refreshing to finally see a film that explores an autistic individual who isn’t two dimensional.”

If You Could Say It In Words is the first feature film produced by A Chip & A Chair Films LLC, whose mission is to support the unflinching vision of film and theater artists. The company raised money for If You Could Say It In Words through an innovatively democratic funding structure — selling shares in the film to individual investors at $225 apiece. They raised enough money initially to shoot only less than half of the film; so they shot a selection of scenes, edited, and then used the material to promote the film to investors, eventually garnering enough shareholders to complete the shooting and post-production of the film over the course of several years.

Nicholas Gray, Alvin Keith, and co-producers Katharine Clark Gray and Adam Eisenstein will be available for in-person interviews October 6-11 in Louisville. Phone interviews or a full press packet with photos from the film as well as further information about all cast and crew are available upon request.

Writer/director Nicholas Gray was born in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up all across the state (Lexington, Lebanon, Campbellsville, and Louisville). He graduated from Ballard High School and first studied acting with Walden Theater Conservatory. Virtually Nicholas’ entire family is in or from the state, with ties going back to the time before Kentucky formally joined the U.S. Nicholas currently plans to return to Louisville this winter as director and co-producer on a series of awareness videos for the Autism Self-Advocacy Network. As part of the series, he will be profiling the teacher whose remarkable relationship with his autistic children first inspired Nicholas to write a script with an autistic lead role.

The film was shot by cinematographer Richard Sands, noted for his lighting direction of films by Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Spielberg, Sam Ramie, Joe Dante, among others.

Other featured actors in the film include New York theater veteran Gerry Lehane, Yvonne Woods(Yale Rep, ACT, Alley Theater), PaSean Wilson (Another World, Striptease), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Drama Desk Award Winner for Jitney, Everyday People, Law & Order) Dana Snyder (Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force).

Adam Eisenstein
Director of Marketing and Development
Co-producer, If You Could Say It In Words
A Chip & A Chair Films
[email protected]

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