Ezra (2023)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Tony Goldwyn
Run Time
1 hour and 41 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★★5 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

The family. (c) Bleecker Street Media

Director Tony Goldwyn’s film, scripted by Tony Spiridakis, presents us with a fractured family in New Jersey dealing with an autistic son. Ezra (William Fitzgerald) is an 11-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, but one so wired that he lives in a different emotional world from everyone else. He cannot bare to be touched, and he is obsessively rejects metal tableware, always insisting on plastic.

Ezra would be a daunting challenge to even the wisest of parents, but his are separated, with wife Jenna (Rose Byrne) already involved with a man named Bruce (Tony Goldwyn). Max Bernal (Bobby Cannavale) is now living with the father he once was estranged from, Stan (Robert De Niro). Subject to outbursts of rage, Max is trying to make a living as a standup comedian while co-parenting Ezra. We see his lack of wisdom in that he takes the boy with him to his gigs despite the lateness of the hour.

Ezra gets in such trouble at his public school that he is expelled The social worker and principal suggest that he enter a private facility where he will be sedated in order to control his outbursts. Jenna tends to accept this, but Max is strongly opposed. He still believes that parental love and reason can reach their son. When the boy is injured slightly by a car, and the doctor at the hospital recommends that Ezra be special schooled and drugged, Max becomes so enraged that he punches the guy, leading to a court restraining order forbidding Max to have any contact with his son for three months.

Max’s agent (Whoopi Goldberg) secures Max an audition for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”. However, no funds for plane fare are provided, so Max decides to drive across the country to L.A. Desperate to see his son, he sneaks up the fire escape one night and takes Ezra with him, this act amounting to kidnapping. A bulletin is issued, so father and son must dodge the police during their journey. Jenna and Stan also set out in the hope that they will find the pair before the police do. Along the way. Max and Ezra make a couple of stops—at Nick’s (Rainn Wilson), an old friend, and at a former girlfriend’s  (Vera Farmiga), both of whom offer support.

The climax is heartwarming, with Nick at one time stating, “The word ‘autism’ comes from the Greek ‘in your own world’. I don’t want him in his own world. I want him in this world.” All along Max has self-centeredly insisted that Ezra leave his own and enter his world. But after a very moving scene in which Stan apologizes to Max for failing him as a father, Max is able to connect at last with his son by entering Ezra’s world. There will be plenty of problems ahead, but a somewhat wiser and more compassionate Max (and Jenna) is now better able to cope with them.

There are plenty of funny moments, but even more of touching ones in this sensitive film. This is probably actor Bobby Cannavale’s best role yet, and the young William Fitzgerald, afflicted with a mild ASD, is a marvel in every scene, completely natural in his scenes with Cannavale and De Niro. Without a trace of didactics the film teaches us about what parents of an ASD child must cop with. And people of faith can see a father’s fierce love for his son as similar to God’s love for us. It would be good to suggest this as a suitable film for families to watch and discuss, but the great amount of street language make this impossible, unless the children are at least junior high age. If used with a religious youth group, leaders should forewarn parents of the vulgar language.

This review will be in the July issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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