I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Michelle Smith is 20 years old and eager for her life to begin. She’d love to find a great job that engages her many interests — like lots of people her age (and older), she is a huge nerd, into animation and doll collecting — and cannot wait to move out of her mom Julie’s house in Bangor, Maine. Many of us will see ourselves in Michelle, whether we’re at the same stage in life or have left that ache to be a grownup behind long ago. And that is true even though Michelle is legally blind and autistic. Best and Most Beautiful Things, the first feature from documentary filmmaker Garrett Zevgetis, is at once a condescension-free look at the uphill battles people with disabilities face in a world often not designed to accommodate them and also a lively, engaging portrait of a young woman with rather more ordinary hopes and dreams: Michelle is an explicit challenge to our ideas of what “normal” is, particularly as it concerns her autism and how it shapes how she interacts with other people (which us “normals” might see as overly emotional). Zevgetis finds an intriguing way to replicate Michelle’s experience of the world when it comes to her sight: she can see some things if she holds stuff very close to her face, so the filmmaker sometimes engages in extreme closeups that reduce the frame of vision down to the smallest perspective. Yet all the while Michelle’s eye on the world and the possibilities open to her is enormous, in one instance perhaps too enormous: we can see from the moment it is broached that she may be getting her hopes up in an unrealistic way. But we all did that as young people! The title of the film comes via a quote from Helen Keller — Michelle is a graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, Keller’s alma mater — that is, in full: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, but just felt in the heart.” And the film lives up to its implication that, regardless of our capabilities, we all want and need the same things out of life. Michelle may be, in the words of the film’s tagline, “not your average outcast,” but she’s not so unusual at all.