Although it favors breadth over depth, the documentary "The United States of Autism" offers a tender look at an eclectic array of children, their parents and other individuals affected by this ever-increasing developmental disability. Producer-director Richard Everts tours the U.S. in search of answers and enlightenment to help better understand his own autistic teen son along with his — and his co-producer wife's — roles in their child's challenging life.
The chipper Everts hosts and narrates (with the occasional hokiness) this 40-day road trip across a patchwork of American towns and cities. His brief, slightly stagy visits with folks, young and older, at varying ends of the autism spectrum, purposefully include Mormon, Muslim, Puerto Rican, African American and Chinese interview subjects, plus a mix of socioeconomic, political and intellectual perspectives. Candor, warmth and impressive displays of fortitude abound.
A range of key autism-related issues is touched upon, though, as with the snapshots of the film's many characters, less is not necessarily more. However, what the film lacks in probing and balance it makes up for in worthiness of topic.
Still, a late-breaking call on Everts' estranged biological father (Richard was put up for adoption as a child) proves a thematic dog leg that doesn't quite hunt. There's also an inconclusiveness to the entire journey that may bother the viewer more than it seems to concern the earnest, proactive filmmaker.
"The United States of Autism"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena