Somersault – Australian #AutismMovie


I enjoy the raw, unpolished and brutally honest style of Australian cinema and this film was all of that and more.

The main theme running through this movie was disconnectedness.

  • Which reminded me of the movie ‘Heaven’s Burning’
  • The 1997 Australian film starring Russell Crowe
  • But with no Autism theme

At the beginning of the movie, Heidi who is living with her mother runs away from home.

She takes a bus to a tourist town in Australia’s ski region and soon after arriving, begins a relationship with Joe, the son of a local, well to do farming family.

Despite the clear social and economic contrast of their families , they are equally dysfunctional.


Asperger’s appears very briefly, in the guise of Karl, the younger brother of Heidi’s Ski town colleague, Bianca.

  • In one scene we see Karl with his mother, describing what he sees on Emotional expression flashcards

In a later scene Karl is juxtaposed with Heidi as Bianca describes some of Karl’s Autistic impairments.

  • ‘It’s like if you feel pain I can understand or if I’m happy you can tell. He can’t tell so he can’t make friends’
  • ‘He just says exactly what he’s thinking, he doesn’t know how he’s going to make the other person feel’
  • ‘If you tell a joke, he waits for everyone else to laugh because he doesn’t know it’s funny’


Not surprisingly, the other main theme in this movie is intimacy.

Both Heidi and Joe (as well as many of the other cast members!) crave intimacy in their own way, despite their disconnectedness.

  • In Heidi, this presents as promiscuity and general ‘inappropriate’ behavior and language
  • Joe is more guarded, clearly unhappy but afraid to reach out


People, whose childhoods involved continuous and extended emotional neglect and indifference from their parents (like me) can present similar behaviors and disturbances to those found with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Heidi and Joe were both good candidates for this disorder and the overlap with Autism, at least for me, was not lost.

But in at least 2 scenes, Joe demonstrates a clear understanding of social scripting and socially ‘appropriate’ behavior.

But Heidi is clearly oblivious of the consequences of her actions and the impact on those around her.

  • Much like me, unless I am concentrating very, very hard!


Somersault pulls no punches but despite being a very intense movie, it is also a quiet and contemplative movie.

  • Inviting the viewer to think and engage with the characters

It was also somewhat comforting to observe that it isn’t just Autistic people who struggle daily with social impairment!


We are not alone…


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