The Night Clerk and Love on the Spectrum on Netflix

I was delighted to find these gems on Netflix recently featuring cast members who are on the spectrum.

Love on the Spectrum is a series on Netflix that follows a group of young adults as they share their experiences trying to navigate the world of romantic relationships, as well as relationships in general.

What I love about this series in particular is that it does a pretty good job of letting the individuals be themselves on camera. They are all very capable of expressing themselves, so instead of having a film where doctors and therapists and parents and friends talk about each of the featured men and women the whole time, you have an audience who is asking questions directly, and listening directly, to each subject. It is a very intimate look at how each of these men and women have struggled and pursued close relationships as a person on the spectrum; oftentimes frustrating but worth the effort, as each of them expresses how important it is for them to accomplish this life goal.

I also found it touching how supportive the people around these individuals are for the most part. Not everyone on the spectrum is so lucky to have a family who is willing and emotionally capable of going through the trial-and-error process to understand how their child manages this world and how they may express themselves best.

Most everyone, I feel, struggles emotionally in their lives at some point when it comes to making judgments and comparing themselves to others. When you are on the spectrum and you have a seemingly perfect brother who has received all the gifts you think make up an “ideal” human being capable of having those relationships you envy, how do you overcome those feelings of inadequacy while at the same time managing the loneliness and low self-esteem constantly trying to drag you down? As we all like to remind people as often as possible, being on the spectrum does not mean you are “devoid of emotion” or “don’t feel empathy.” It might be a strange and circuitous route, but we are certainly capable of wrapping our minds around others’ emotional experiences when we are familiar with the emotion ourselves.

This series offers a hopeful and positive view of these individuals’ plight by highlighting how rich and insightful what they have to offer the world truly is. Seeing the world differently and conveying honesty through every word and action is something I think everyone can learn from and value in this world where it feels like most everyone is doing their best to hide who they are for whatever reason serves them.

A few days after finding this series, I stumbled upon a film called The Night Clerk starring Tye Sheridan. It is an interesting little thriller about a young man on the spectrum who works the night shift at a hotel, where he runs into the beautiful and mysterious Andrea, played by Ana de Armas. Their interactions are heartwarming and innocent on the surface, but this doesn’t last very long.

I enjoyed and appreciated Tye’s portrayal of a young man on the spectrum who desires desperately to be able to interact with people “normally.” He tries to educate himself by spying on people in their rooms through hidden cameras, ignorant of the impending judgment and repercussions of this behavior. I think one of the most touching scenes occurs later in the film when we are allowed into a fantasy where Tye imagines himself behaving the way a “normal man” would, able to woo and interact with this woman with whom he’s instantly fallen in love. This is powerful as a demonstration of the coexistence of a mental life in which a man on the spectrum is just like everyone else—only with above average intelligence—capable of understanding and feeling and loving but with differences in how these things are expressed and manifested in real life.

I think only through shedding the self-consciousness implicit in the modern world’s social paradigm can people start to honestly and clearly understand and interact with people on the spectrum. Listen and step outside of the boxes in order to approach them on a level that is comfortable and accessible. My heart aches when I see people out with a loved one who is on the spectrum and they seem to be so much more involved and worried about the lookers-on than with interacting genuinely and with love. The situation isn’t easy, of course, but I feel like the first step has to involve some kind of internal conviction to dismiss those feelings of being subject to others’ judgment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below. Do you have other suggestions for movies or series you’ve seen recently? How do you feel about the actors’ portrayal of autism? Thanks for reading. =)