Fly Away (2011)
Being a single mother is a tough job; no matter how tough it looks in the movies, in real life it’s tougher. One of the things that get lost in the shuffle of parenthood and work responsibilities is the person who must fulfill them. Even juggling the basic stuff—school, homework, pediatric well-visits, dentist, housekeeping, meals—leaves little time for personal development or a social life. When a child gets sick, it’s chaos. Even a mild case of the flu can cause major upset.
Can you imagine what it must be like to be the single mother of a sixteen-year-old autistic child? Fly Away, a film by Janet Grillo, does the imagining for us. Beth Broderick stars as Jeanne, a work-at-home consultant and mother of an autistic teenager whose life centers on the demands of her daughter, Mandy (Ashley Rickards). The amount of time she spends bouncing from crisis to crisis threatens her career, and Mandy is becoming increasingly violent with her parents and students in her school.
Mandy’s father (JR Bourne) would like Mandy to be placed in a therapeutic residential facility, especially as she becomes more unmanageable. Convincing Jeanne to place Mandy in such a facility is a waste of time for her ex-husband and the faculty of Mandy’s school (which is about to expel her).
Complicating Jeanne’s life is Tom (Greg Germann), a man she meets while walking her dog, who is romantically interested in her. Jeanne’s responsibilities as a parent and her prolonged lack of a social life make her a poor candidate for romance.
The conflict between being a good parent and letting go is at the heart of Fly Away. It is difficult to watch at times, as Mandy’s behavior spirals out of control—both her own and her mother’s—and we wonder how any parent is able to deal with a child who is so seriously impaired. As we watch Jeanne’s life devolve, we feel her frustration. It’s not easy when the right thing is a thing doesn’t feel right.