Critic: Patrick Foley
Posted on: 23 May 2022
Film critic Patrick Foley reviews the documentary Beyond for UK Film Review. Written and directed by filmmaker Thiago Dadalt, Beyond explores autism and “documents a year in the life of one family, and shows the highs and lows they experience.”
Whilst the world gradually gains a better understanding of autism, and more and more stories are represented in film and television like Atypical and Please Stand By, most people still have yet to grasp the realities of the spectrum and the demands placed on families as a result. Thiago Dadalt’s Beyond documents a year in the life of one family, and shows the highs and lows they experience.
The documentary, produced by Dru Miller, tells the story of Tamara Mark, a former dancer and actor who left behind dreams of stardom to care for her sons Ian and Harry when their father left the family. Both Ian and Harry are non-verbally autistic and have recently had to adapt to a new stage of life as they have become adults, resulting in a withdrawal of much of the support they have relied upon. The family take each day as it comes and handle both the challenges and joyous moments, as Tamara tries to rally support for adults with autism – with a dream of building a community in which they can thrive.
What makes Beyond such an affecting film is the level of intimacy the director achieves with the Mark family. The film hits a perfect balance of bringing its audience into the families’ lives without us ever feeling like an intruder. The scenes shot in the family’s home are raw, authentic, and unimpacted by the presence of a camera. Thiago Dadalt’s crew are ghosts in the film’s most touching moments – showing a trueness that is both heart-breaking and heart-warming, such as in a scene in which one of the sons relies on a typing board to communicate a tooth pain that the family have been unable to treat.
Tamara Mark is the viewer’s window into the family, and her remarkable life story is a worthy entry point into all 3 lives. Her past as an actor and dancer is examined, as is her revelation as to her true purpose upon the death of her mentor and the birth of her children. Her new goal of a community in which people with autism can live their lives together, with proper support to allow for their independence invigorates the documentary and fulfils its purpose – to provide something ‘beyond’ your own abilities as an individual.
Indeed, the battle against an uncaring and unsuitable system that simply does not cater for the needs of families like the Marks is presented in such a way that audiences will share the frustration and despair Tamara herself, as well as the full team she relies upon to raise her boys feel. The aforementioned dental problem ends up requiring multiple treatments, which mean multiple hirings of a team just to get Harry to the hospital and multiple excessive dental bills. Shining a light on these difficulties, that most would never comprehend, adds to the film’s noble purpose without ever coming across as preachy. And whilst Tamara’s ambition of a mini-city community may feel lofty, it is hard to argue by the film’s end that it is not a worthwhile cause.
4 / 5 stars