In Theaters

It’s been said that love knows no bounds. But how widely are most of us willing to apply that notion? Does that include only the limited sorts of romantic circumstances with which we’re most familiar? Or are we capable of envisioning it on a broader scale, applying it to scenarios that aren’t neatly compartmentalized into tidy little boxes? For those who have special needs or who represent constituencies outside the mainstream, we may not readily consider their situations and requirements, even though the need is just as valid – and viable – as it is for the rest of us. Those are among the issues explored in the inventive new romantic comedy, “Keep the Change” (web site, trailer).

When David Cohen (Brandon Polansky) is assigned to attend sessions at a support group for adults with special needs, he’s not thrilled with the idea. Having committed some kind of minor, unspecified legal infraction, the 30-year-old would-be filmmaker is ordered to spend some time at Connections, an organization aimed at assisting adults living with various forms of autism and learning disabilities. But David, who lives a comparative life of privilege with his affluent parents, Carrie (Jessica Walter) and Lenny (Tibor Feldman), looks down on the idea, finding the group, its participants and its programs unduly limiting. And, after his first session, he rails at having to go back. However, Carrie convinces him to return in order to restore all of the rights and privileges to which he’s grown accustomed.

Adult autism support group members David Cohen (Brandon Polansky, left) and Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon, right) get off to a rocky start but slowly build a loving relationship in the charming new romantic comedy, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Not all is lost, however. During his time at Connections, David gradually becomes acquainted with another of the organization’s clients, Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon), a bubbly, enthusiastic, fully engaged participant in many of the available programs. Although David initially finds Sarah somewhat annoying, a mutual attraction slowly simmers, especially when she unreservedly admits that she finds the newcomer “smokin’ hot.” Before long, David and Sarah become an item, with the warmth between them obvious for all to see.

Not everyone is thrilled about the new couple’s romance. Sarah’s onetime beau, Will (Will Deaver), for example, is more than a little jealous. Carrie and Lenny have their reservations, too, convinced that Sarah is a gold-digger, someone not worthy of their son’s affections (or assets). What’s more, the relationship itself is not without its challenges, given the condition (and attendant ramifications) that each of them must cope with. Considering their lack of “filters,” for instance, each unwittingly engage in what some might characterize as inappropriate behavior, creating potentially embarrassing or awkward circumstances for themselves, with each other and for those around them.

What begins awkwardly slowly builds into a solid romance between adult autism support group members David Cohen (Brandon Polansky, left) and Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon, right) in director Rachel Israel’s acclaimed debut feature, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Nevertheless, David and Sarah show us what it means to really be in love, no matter what others may think, say or do. They thus demonstrate the undeniable power of this emotion and what it can do for us in transforming our lives – and in allowing us to truly be ourselves.

Based on a short subject by the same name, “Keep the Change” represents an impressive feature film debut for director Rachel Israel, one that’s justifiably been drawing raves among both critics and audiences. This touching, sweet romantic comedy has a definite point of view, as well as a definite edge, that take chances other films in this genre probably could not get away with (don’t be surprised if you often find yourself laughing at things you think you shouldn’t be chuckling about). The heartfelt romance between the developmentally challenged leads comes across as nothing but genuine while successfully maintaining a high degree of irreverence and ever-present unpredictability. And the filmmaker’s bold decisions to cast actors coping with autism and to employ innovative directorial techniques designed to encourage spontaneity add degrees of authenticity that make the picture truly unique. This charming offering definitely pokes fun at a lot of sacred cows while simultaneously poking viewers in the ribs virtually nonstop from start to finish. It’s a flat-out winner for sure.

When an adult autism support group member announces his budding new romance to his affluent parents, Carrie (Jessica Walter, left) and Lenny Cohen (Tibor Feldman, right), he’s met with a less-than-enthusiastic response when they reveal their concerns, as seen in the new independent release, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Some may find the notion that “love conquers all” a little naïve, perhaps even wholly unrealistic. Yet, as many of us well know, it can prove to be a valuable ally in helping us deal with difficult circumstances, especially those that might otherwise sap all of the life and enthusiasm out of us. So, in circumstances like that, it’s comforting to know that it can help steer us through the rough patches and make them more tolerable – maybe even outright enjoyable – especially when we find the right companion to come along with us for the journey. 

A full review will appear in the near future by clicking here.

Exposing a Dangerous Idea

The question of nature vs. nurture has long puzzled those seeking to determine how we become who we are. For those firmly in the nature camp, the study of genetics has served as the basis – some would even say incontrovertible proof – of their contentions, and their advocates have often relied upon it in furthering their social and political goals, so much so that it has often come to be viewed without question. But the merits of these ideas have increasingly come under healthy scrutiny, especially given the questionable science on which they’re based, a notion explored in the excellent new documentary, “A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream” (web site, trailer), available on DVD and video on demand.

Director Stephanie Welch’s latest offering recounts the scientific and social history of this movement, showing how genetic and eugenic studies have been willfully manipulated to impose prejudicial and often-harmful outcomes upon minorities, women, immigrants, the disabled and various ethnic groups. Through archive footage and expert interviews with authors, scientists, policymakers and others, the filmmaker illustrates how these dubious concepts have been shaped to espouse an idea that’s not only dangerous but that goes against what America supposedly stands for. In doing so, Welch serves up a scathing indictment of an idea whose time has come – and gone.

Movies with Meaning Is Back on the Air!

Join host Frankie Picasso and me for the next edition of Movies with Meaning on The Good Media Network’s Frankiesense & More broadcast on Thursday, March 29, at 1 pm ET. We’ll discuss a number of new movie releases and other film-related news. For the video version, tune in on Facebook Live by clicking here. And, for the audio only podcast edition, check out The Good Media Network’s home page by clicking here. Join us for some fun movie chat!

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.