Wretches & Jabberers: An Info Packet on Autism


For what it’s worth, Wretches & Jabberers is never less than clear about its objectives. Two men with autism embark on a worldwide tour to fight misconceptions and change perceptions about their disability, and Gerardine Wurzburg’s film is committed to furthering that mission. The title, which co-opts two common epithets for autistic people, is as playful, and questionable, as things get. More info packet than a story, the film is carefully designed for unambiguous impact. Wurzburg wants to open eyes, but efforts to keep them engaged are purely perfunctory. Thankfully, her subjects are never less than entrancing, and genuine conflict arises whenever they attempt to communicate or complete a simple action—there’s drama in their every unpredictable impulse and gesture. Avid painter and photographer Larry Bissonnette joins autism-rights advocate Tracy Thresher (accompanied by their indefatigable assistants, Pascal and Harvey) on trips to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland, to participate in conferences, speak to the press, and meet new and old friends. Despite the scenic locales and J. Ralph’s ambitious song-cycle score (with guest appearances by the likes of Antony, Devendra Banhart, and Norah Jones), the film’s at its most compelling when Larry and Tracy painstakingly tap out words on keyboards, marshaling the patience not only to speak, but speak tenderly and poetically while battling impatient bodies and bewildering reflexes.

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