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“Fly Away,” Reviewed

“Fly Away,” Reviewed (photo)

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Nobility counts for so much in people and so little in movies. Director Janet Grillo’s “Fly Away” is an exceedingly noble film. I admire its commitment to autism education even while I admit I did not like it very much. Its heart is in the right place, and I’m sure it was a labor of love for Grillo and for many in her cast and crew.

It is the story of mother’s struggle to care and provide for her autistic daughter, Mandy. She’s 16 and despite medication and her mother’s constant attention and hard-work, her behavior isn’t improving. Mandy’s too much of a handful for her public school teachers, who continually press mom Jeanne to get Mandy into a full time care and education facility while Jeanne fights like the Dickens to keep her family together.

That, along with a warm and optimistic love story between Jeanne and a man she meets at the dog park (played nicely by Greg Germann) represents the totality of “Fly Away”‘s plot. Mostly the film is just a portrait of the life of a single mother of an austistic daughter. I have no doubt this portrait is accurate. Grillo is the mother of an autistic child and an executive producer of the Emmy-winning documentary “Autism: The Musical,” and the scenes between Jeanne and Mandy thrum with authenticity. On a purely technical level, Ashley Rickards performance as Mandy is remarkable — it’s shocking to compare the glamorous actress of Rickards’ IMDb page with the girl she plays with absolute commitment in “Fly Away.” And Beth Broderick strikes the proper note between determination and exhaustion as Jeanne.

But I must admit, I didn’t get much more out of “Fly Away” than the lesson that having an autistic child can be difficult but deeply rewarding. I suspect the film will find its most receptive audience amongst people who can relate on a more personal level to the lives of Jeanne and Mandy than I can. Families in similar situations likely won’t care that there isn’t anything particularly cinematic about the film, or that every story beat is predictable from the first scene. They’ll just be pleased to watch Jeanne defiantly tell off uncaring school administrators with lines like “My daughter is not a problem. My daughter is a person!”

I wasn’t personally moved by “Fly Away,” but I imagine an audience like that might. This isn’t a case of some greedy Hollywood types cashing it in with a crass product. Whatever else is lacking in this film, there is passion and plenty of good intentions. But you know what they say about good intentions.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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