Movie Review: Language Arts * Emotionally Compelling Film With Impeccable Performances And Superb Cinematography
A student project abruptly forces an emotionally stunted high school English teacher to confront his demons–past and present–taking him on a powerful journey of connection and redemption. Based on the novel, starring Ashley Zukerman, Sarah Shahi, Elliott Smith and Lincoln Lambert. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “An emotionally compelling film, with impeccable performances and superb cinematography, Language Arts provides viewers with a glimpse into the lives of parents of children with disabilities as well as the children themselves.” Kyla C. adds, “Language Arts is an emotional film that covers a wide variety of heavy, yet entertaining topics. This film has talented actors, great sets, relatable storylines, strong characters and fabulous cinematography. The creativity of this film is so cool, although it is sometimes a little bit confusing.” See their full reviews below.
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Kid Reporter, age 15
An emotionally compelling film, with impeccable performances and superb cinematography, Language Arts provides viewers with a glimpse into the lives of parents of children with disabilities as well as the children themselves.
Language Arts follows a man on his life journey. As a student, he befriends Dana, an autistic boy who is part of a program at his school. Dana is bullied by other students every day and, after an especially horrid incident involving a pen and a pantsing, Dana’s life is in danger. The film fast-forwards and the young man is now an English teacher with an autistic son named Cody and a strained marriage. Over the duration of the film, life comes full circle for him as he reconnects with his past and comes to terms with the struggles he faces through his student’s photography project.
The film’s director, Cornelia “Corrie” Duryée, is part of the disabled community herself, as she suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, fibromyalgia and severe multiple chemical sensitivity. Her youngest son, who makes a cameo in the film, has ASD. Four actors in the film also have ASD, including Mickey Rowe , who is an incredible actor with great depth of emotion and, evidently, personal experience that fuels his conviction to the role. Lincoln Lambert plays Dana, and his portrayal of an autistic student is very compelling. The cinematography accents the turmoil faced by the characters, with many crisp and evocative close-ups, and music accents every poignant moment. Some of the cuts between years and ages of characters make the film tough to understand at the start, but the story unrolls as it develops in a magnificent fashion.
Language Arts promotes accepting each other for who they are; making friends with those that are different from you; and working together, which can help people overcome what may seem like an insuperable hurdle. The film does contain some profanity, portrayals of fights, and various instances of ableism. There are also some graphic scenes where Dana is violently bullied.
I give Language Arts 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. The film will resonate with parents of disabled children. It is available now on VOD.
By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
Language Arts is an emotional film that covers a wide variety of heavy, yet entertaining topics. This film has talented actors, great sets, relatable storylines, strong characters and fabulous cinematography. The creativity of this film is so cool, although it is sometimes a little bit confusing.
The storyline follows Charles Marlow (Ashley Zukerman) as he deals with family issues and connects with differently abled people throughout his life. As some young autistic patients start sparking memories of his childhood, we travel back to those times with him. As we visit his past, we see young Charles Marlow (Elliott Smith) and Dana McGucken (Lincoln Lambert) in elementary school, meeting and marrying Allison Forche-Marlow (Sarah Shahi) and then dealing with his disabled son, Cody Marlow (Kieran Walton). We get even more backstory about young Charles as kid and observe his life with his constantly arguing parents.
Language Arts has many fantastic elements; one of them being the incredibly well-chosen actors. The emotional story leads to deeply developed characters, which requires talented actors to pull off. Each actor portrays their character very well. Some of the best performances are from Elliott Smith as young Charles Marlow and Sarah Shahi as Allison Forche-Marlow. Young Charles Marlow deals with many challenging situations, including distant parents and bullying. Elliott Smith captures his character so well that I believe he is Charles. Sarah Shahi clearly connects with her character, Allison. She shines a light on Allison’s real desires and personality, despite her actions telling a different story. Most importantly, the storyline is relatable and written strong enough to give actors the opportunity to shine. Each character has its own subplot so that every character is important. Learning about the secondary characters’ backgrounds and deepest desires through the subplots adds to the film. The sets are another standout part. I particularly liked the set in the art studio which features beautiful artwork. The camerawork is also outstanding, using a variety of angles to draw you into the scenes. I love the creativity of the film jumping back and forth in time, allowing us to see the characters when they were younger, which helps us understand their current point of view. Yet that gets confusing at times. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if I’m watching something from the past, present or future and that makes the storyline hard to follow. However, once you get accustomed to those time changes, which includes change of wardrobe and period-specific sets, the film is easier to follow.
The message of this film is to treat people with disabilities with the same respect as anyone else. There are other important themes that are shown such as being kind and living life to its fullest. Language Arts does address heavy topics, contains some profanity and is a sad story in many ways.
I give Language Arts 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Language Arts now on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Vudu.
KEYWORDS: Ashley Zukerman, Sarah Shahi, language arts movie, autism, high school, English teacher