It’s not often that a movie haunts me, flashing images laden with emotions over and over long after the film has ended. Stay Then Go is one of those movies. I can’t say how the general public will respond to this film because I’m part of a special group. I’m the mother of a child with autism, a select audience.
It is exactly this selective audience that makes this film so powerful. It’s artfully told from the mother’s perspective. A perspective that gives us rich insight into the tough issues of raising a child with autism. While it gently tackles some controversial themes, it is in the small moments that we find ourselves, as parents, lovingly represented. Too often our stories go untold and our experiences stay shrouded under the larger umbrella of special needs. In this film we are not heroes, we are not victims, we are people with an extraordinary story to tell.
The writer and director, Shelli Ainsworth, is a mother herself so she brings first-hand knowledge of the joys and struggles of raising a child with autism. But telling this kind of story, so personal and yet so universal in its themes, takes a particular talent.
At first I found myself struggling to find an anchor in the film, a way into the characters and their story. It felt disjointed and a little surreal. It wasn’t until I was fully invested in the story that I realized this disconnected feeling was intentional. Skillfully, I had been placed into the world of a family seeking answers to what is going on with their child, reaching for connections. It truly is another world, isolated and surreal.
Again and again, this film took me to emotional places that I only visit in panic stricken moments at night, and those I inhabit in secret every day as I yearn and advocate for my son. And even though our story is not this story, I found so many scenes that I myself have lived or imagined. It felt very much like coming home, watching this film.
This is where the true power of the movie lies, in those moments of universal emotions that all parents feel. The hope for a happy future, the disappointment of missed opportunities and the fear of someday not being there. It is the breaking of these hopes that wakes us autism moms up at night. It is the support of these hopes that keeps us going, seeing the possibilities that await our children. And it is the enduring bonds that tie us to them that push our story forward.
Take some time to watch this film, released for sale on April 22. Grab some tissues and a loved-one and settle in for an incredible journey into Stay Then Go. You’ll be glad you did.
If you’d like to experience the film as part of a community, then attend this upcoming event. It’s worth going just to meet the amazing people who made this film.
May 10, 2015, Mothers Day
- A STAY THEN GO Screening to honor/celebrate mothers
- Showplace Icon West End, St. Louis Park, MN
- 1:00 pm
- writer/ director, and producers in attendance
- coffee and dessert to follow screening