The winner of the Founders Award for best U.S. narrative feature and the award for best new narrative director at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, “Keep the Change” is a game-changer of a movie.
It is anything but average: a love story between two autistic adults at a Jewish community center on the Upper West Side of New York.
The lead actor, Brandon Polansky, is deceptively debonair with striking good looks, always behind dark glasses and in trendy black clothes, making you think he’s almost be too suave to play a man with autism.
But you quickly learn that the glasses are part of a mask to hide the tics and turns that are real in every sense of the word. Polansky actually does have autism. As does co-star Samantha Elisofon, who plays the delightful and beboppy love interest Sarah, who has an “easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy” way with words.
Although a fictional story, the film has a documentary feel, owing partly to the fact that the lead actor is essentially playing himself. Director Rachel Israel got the idea for the film while working on her M.F.A. in 2013 at Columbia, where she watched Brandon develop a romantic relationship with a classmate at a community center that serves adults on the spectrum.
Quirky and full of humor, this movie is reminiscent of the book “The Rosie Project,” which has yet to be released as a film but which also offers a fresh look at autism with an extremely handsome leading man.
“Keep the Change” shines a light on how a high-functioning adult on the spectrum can try to assimilate and on how, ultimately, the more important goal for each of us is to learn to be true to ourselves.
(Atlanta Jewish Film Festival screening: Jan. 27, 3:15 p.m., Hollywood, and 8:15 p.m., Perimeter Pointe; Jan. 28, 1:50 p.m., Atlantic Station; Feb. 2, 2:20 p.m., Springs; Feb. 14, 7:40 p.m., Tara)