Mom's Film Shows a Part of the Autism Spectrum We Don't Often See in Movies

This mother of a child with autism has drawn on their experiences to bring a stereotype-defying story to the big screen.

Janet Grillo is a director, professor at New York University and mother of a 22-year-old son with autism. Her film, “Jack of the Red Hearts,” which hits theaters Friday, tells the story of a teenage runaway who poses as a caregiver and forms a unique bond with an 11-year-old autistic girl named Glory.

The film’s screenwriter, Jennifer Deaton, is the aunt of a girl with autism, who was the inspiration for Glory’s character, the New York Post reported.

Check out our new poster art! #jotrh @annasophiarobb @taylorbrichardson

A photo posted by Jack Of The Red Hearts (@jackoftheredhearts) on


One of Grillo’s goals in making the film was to break the stereotypes often used to portray people on the spectrum — gifted, quirky, socially odd, “Rain Man”-like characters. Grillo wanted to show that many people on the spectrum are nonverbal and may require assistance. Her son, who lives in an assisted-independent living program in New York, had a lot of therapy as a child to get to that point.

I do feel that my experience as a mother is my truth in this story,” Grillo told the Post. “My hope is, next time you’re in the grocery store and you see a mother of a child who’s throwing a wild ‘tantrum,’ instead of deciding that child is a brat, thinking, ‘Maybe that’s a child with autism.’ Maybe saying, ‘How can I help?’”

See the preview for the film below:


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