Review: 'A Boy Called Po', As Informative As It Is Uplifting

There are some films you see that you forget by the time you walk out of the theater. Then there are others that stick with you, that have such a strong message and story that years later you can remember them like you just saw them yesterday. A Boy Called Po is one of those films that I will be remembering for years to come.

The film tells the story of David Wilson (Christopher Gorham), a widower who has an autistic son Patrick, nicknamed Po (Julian Feder). The opening scene shows David burying his wife while scenes of Po playing are interjected throughout. David’s pain is evident throughout the intro to the film and it’s solemn score, while Po on the other hand, does not understand the gravity of the situation and continually asks his father where mommy is.

The bulk of A Boy Called Po takes place around six months after the funeral of Po’s mother. David is an engineer struggling to balance tight deadlines at work while being a single father that is raising an autistic son. David is clearly a devoted and loving father that is trying his best in a very difficult situation. In addition to the pressure he is facing from his employers, David is also having issues with Po’s school. Po has to deal with the stereotypical school bully who is set on making his life a living hell. Throughout the film I found it disturbing how much bullying happens right in front of the teacher without her doing anything substantial to try and stop it. The administration seemingly justifies the bullying by saying that Po is isolating himself and not interacting with the other children. On top of that, the principal is worried that Po is not succeeding at school and that specialized options may need to be taken. All these issues compounded together create a situation for David that is almost too much to handle.

During the film, we see Po experience drifting which is described as a type of disengagement with reality. Po is seen taking his mother’s scarf, hiding underneath it, and escaping into numerous fantasy worlds. These worlds range from being filled with pirates and treasure to cowboys in the Wild West. Most of these characters Po interacts with while he escapes are adults that have similar goofy tendencies and quirks to them. Po acts completely differently in these worlds, evident by his different mannerisms and speech patterns.  As the film progresses, Po’s drifting gets worse and David struggles with the idea that no matter how much he loves his son, maybe he is not capable of being able to provide the proper level of care for Po.

A Boy Called Po is based on a true story and gives fantastic insight into the life of an autistic child and the challenges that a family faces. Director John Asher does a masterful job of educating viewers on autism and certain features of the condition and manages to seamlessly blend it into the narrative. I found myself learning about different aspects of, and related to, autism - such as sensory integration therapy - and yet the film’s flawless storytelling made everything still seem completely natural. A Boy Called Po is a touching and heartwarming journey of a father and son each trying to cope with loss and survive in their own ways, that is told with a unique style that keeps the viewer engaged.

Rating: 4 out of 5