By ALAN NG
When faced with an insurmountable mountain to climb, it’s natural to feel alone. But then you realize that there are hundreds of others trying to climb that same mountain as you. Co-writers Thiago Dadalt and Dru Miller document the lifelong expedition of actress Tamara Mark in their feature film, Beyond.
As a young adult, Mark made a name for herself as an aspiring Broadway dancer and Hollywood actor. She appeared in such hits as Cheers, Nash Bridges, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. After getting married, Mark gave birth to two autistic sons, Ian and Harry. As the pressure mounted, her marriage ended in divorce, leaving the actor alone to raise her two sons.
The first half gets right to the heart of the issue. Mark’s role as a mother is a full-time, 24/7 job. Ian and Harry are non-speaking autistic adults, with their primary form of communication being a cardboard chart with a keyboard layout printed across its face. Ian wants to live as an independent adult, while Harry is frustrated about the pain caused by three cavities. Unfortunately, his insurance won’t cover the sedation dentistry needed to safely fill the cavities before an infection sets in.
Beyond spotlights the challenges Mark faces with her adult autistic sons. Most government programs ended when Ian and Harry turned twenty-one. She’s now left alone and caring for the two, leaving time for little else. Naturally, safety is the first concern. Because of Harry’s intense pain and anxiety, he’s pulling out his hair and biting the skin off his hand to cope. Unfortunately, help is either unavailable or unaffordable. Yes, some homes provide a safe and specialized environment for autistic adults, but the waiting list is long, and the fees fall between $90 to $140K per year.
“…spotlights the challenges Mark faces with her adult autistic sons. Most government programs ended when Ian and Harry turned twenty-one.”
In the third act, Mark is at her emotional limit and needs time away from her boys. She points out that the suicide rate for parents and caregivers of autistic children is high. Feeling alone and hopeless is what drives these loving parents to the point of suicide. Realizing that what parents want, at a base level, is merely help and support, Mark found her true purpose.
Knowing what she’s gone through and that there are thousands of other families feeling the same way, Mark’s passionate about being that source of help for others that goes beyond love. Beyond ends with Tamara Mark making progress in forming an organization that will build a better and safer community for autistic adults.
Director Dadalt is masterful in getting to the heart of Mark’s cause. He never overplays the emotional hand while exposing us to how serious this cause is. Documentaries like this are the epitome of films that bring awareness to an issue that is hidden yet knows no boundaries or class. I dare you to watch the documentary and not see Mark as a tireless hero to her children and cause. Your heart will break for her and her children and hopefully will inspire you to take action. Not to sound bleak, but I don’t think the government is coming to the rescue anytime soon.
Beyond attempts to not only find hope in a hopeless situation but in a roundabout way encourages us to be a beacon of hope as well.
MOVIE SCORE: 9/10