A powerful film directed by Emmy Award winner Janet Grillo (Autism: The Musical), FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne (Beth Broderick, Bonfire of the Vanities, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy (Ashley Rickards, One Tree Hill). Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next. In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom (Greg Germann, Ally McBeal, Friends with Money), an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man. As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility. Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.
Statement from the Director
As the mother of a child with disabilities, I was immediately thrust into the challenge every parent must face at some point: meeting the needs of your child when it is at great cost to yourself. Perhaps the very measure of love is what and how much we are willing to sacrifice. Although parenting someone with Autism is particular, the primal drive to do the best for one’s child is universal. FLY AWAY tells this story.
FLY AWAY is a personal film, derived from experience. As I have journeyed with other parents of children with special needs, I’ve witnessed great pain and extraordinary passion. I’ve also watched parents unable to place their children in full time therapeutic residences, when it was clearly needed. While such placement is not best for all or even most children on the spectrum, it’s tragic when parents are too plagued with fear and guilt to make the choice when it is. If FLY AWAY eases the pain of even one parent’s torturous decision, or if it expands the heart of even one person untouched by Autism to accept our children and appreciate our struggles, it will have been well worth making. The authenticity of our story can provide insight and hope. Truth often does.
The stark emotionality of the story will be matched by the overall aesthetic. The raw aesthetic of low-budget filmmaking, enhances our story’s intensity. We will shoot FLY AWAY with a digital camera, making use of natural light whenever possible. Much of it will be shot hand-held, in the observational style of Cinema Verite. In the Neo-Realist tradition, we will film in actual locations. Our actors will look accessible and feel relatable. Glamour will be left at the door.
– Janet Grillo