Warning – minor spoilers.
Atypical is a new TV series on Netflix which follows the life of an eighteen-year-old boy called Sam (Keir Gilchrist) who’s on the autism spectrum. It follows many intricate aspects of his life and the lives of those closest to him.
You see his mum, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), battle between balancing her life as a mother to both a child with autism and a “neurotypical” child. Her attention seems to be consumed by Sam due to his complex needs, which can sometimes leave Sam’s sister to mature beyond her years. Elsa battles trying to remain social, which as it happens has dire consequence. She tackles prejudiced views expressed by her peers who don’t fully comprehend Sams life and Elsa’s complicated life.
You see Sams sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) struggle between balancing her own love life. She meets her first boyfriend who she at firsts resists against which has a small amount to do with Sam’s troubles. She ends up handling family secrets which seem to reveal themselves far too frequently and also being another guardian to her brother. It’s often hard to remember which sibling is older than the other, a sign of how her role as younger sister is confused due to her unintentional responsibility towards her brother. There’s also a very specific moment where you see Casey potentially sacrificing futile prospects due to worries about her brother and how he would cope.
Sams relationship with his father, Doug (Michael Rapaport) is an interesting one. In many ways, this relationship is still developing with his father’s struggle to come to terms with his son’s autism. Even though it had been many years after Sams diagnosis, he doesn’t seem to be able to come to terms with the idea that the picture he once had of growing up with his son in a typical “father, son” manner will never happen.
All of this together makes for an interesting story. I appreciate I haven’t spoken about Sam himself in this article, however, I feel that I have a more in-depth understanding of this illness due to the way the people around this specific character portray the difficult barriers people on the autistic spectrum face on a day to day basis.
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