Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors
"Few portrayals of autism spectrum disorders in film have ever had the authenticity of this."

Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors is a quiet little film with an awful lot to say. The difficulty of living with autism in a poorly adapted world, the loneliness of crowds and the ordinary terrors inherent in parenting come together in a portrait of New York life that combines fact and fiction, offering a different perspective on things we see every day. Though a good deal of its running time is spent on passive observation, it's a film in which tension mounts almost unbearably, in part because it's so believable.

In a stunning performance almost without dialogue, Jesus Sanchez-Velez plays Ricky, a 13-year-old Aspie boy who has had a bad day at school and been made to take medicine he doesn't want. When his sister, a differently frustrated teenager, fails to collect him, he wanders down into the subway for what will become a days long odyssey. Ricky has a lot of useful life skills but insight into others' thoughts is not among them. it simply doesn't occur to him that his absence might worry people.

Copy picture

Andrea Suarez Paz plays Mariana, his mother, who has struggled to raise her kids alone whilst her husband has been away working as an itinerant labourer. An undocumented immigrant, she's fearful even when calling the police and her limited English makes finding help all the harder. Although she gradually acquires support, the task of locating her son in such a huge, anonymous city seems nigh impossible. To make things worse, Hurricane Sandy is closing in and people are beginning to evacuate the neighbourhood. Hints of the damage Sandy will do remind us that anyone can be as small and disorientated as Ricky is with just a small shift in circumstances. At the same time, they contrast with the narrow tunnels and trains, helping us to understand how Ricky has become trapped there and also how comforting, how secure the underground space might feel.

Few portrayals of autism spectrum disorders in film have ever had the authenticity of this. Ricky is in that difficult in between place where he's not obviously disabled (and the special schools suggested would probably be inappropriate for him) but where, nonetheless, he needs some assistance to navigate day to day life. Unfortunately, his limited communication skills mean he can't express this to the few people who try to help. He can easily lose track of basic things like the need to eat and drink, so we begin to wonder if he might simply die, there on the train, without anybody realising anything is wrong.

Despite the danger, Ricky's journey is an important one, and seems to offer the education for which school has proven inadequate. All of New York life is there on the train, real passengers having real conversations, only later realising they were in a film (and giving their consent). Couples fight; teenagers dance; small children gawp and old men tell stories. For the most part, Ricky just watches, but his eyes tell us how the experience is changing him.

At heart a coming of age story, this will be a tough act to follow for director Sam Fleischner, but it should certainly make people sit up and take notice.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2014
Share this with others on...
A boy with Asperger's syndrome goes riding on the New York subway for days as his distraught mother searches for him.

Director: Sam Fleischner

Writer: Micah Bloomberg, Rose Lichter-Marck

Year: 2013

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Any Day Now
Off The Rails