FIELD OF STREAMS Celebrates a Belated Autism Awareness Month

April was Autism Awareness Month and while a few days late, we felt it was important to highlight some films that we think you should check out

Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What are the best unknown gems on Hi-YAH? What does MUBI have going on this month? What are the most exciting things streaming on HBOMax and Kanopy? We’re here to help guide you towards the best and brightest streaming today. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.

Thanks to Music, (for all the wrong reasons, obviously), the way autism is perceived on the screen is now in the spotlight more than ever. Sia’s self-indulgent movie musical is a splashy colorful production boasting a collection of numbers all courtesy of a soundtrack from the artist herself. The film tells the story of an overgrown juvenile delinquent (Kate Hudson) forced to take care of her autistic sister, the titular Music (Maddie Ziegler), who often disappears into her own magical, musical fantasy world with everyone lip syncing and dancing. It seemed damage control for the movie was a thing from the start with questions about the autism experts group Sia chose to consult, to her telling an autistic actress on Twitter that maybe she just wasn’t any good as a response to the user asking the singer/director why she cast someone not on the autism spectrum in the title role.

Any good intentions the film may have had were all drowned out by Sia’s self-absorbed nature. In fact, perhaps Music’s biggest sin was how it suggests that what’s going on inside the head of an autistic person is a Sia music video. Regardless, the film set off a bit of a firestorm. Autism advocates are now fighting for either more authentic portrayals on the screen and/or the casting of autistic actors in such roles. Music wasn’t the first film to attempt to bring the story of a person living with autism to the world. Yet because of its misguidedness, it sadly ended up being one of the more visible. When done right however, films with autistic characters at the center can indeed help put autism in the spotlight in educational and inspiring ways.

As we leave Autism Awareness Month, please enjoy these streaming titles highlighting the different sides of autism on the screen.

CHRISTINE (Tubi, Vudu, Netflix, Hulu, Fubo)

This true story made headlines back in the 70s and proved just as riveting back in 2016 when the feature film version was released. In Christine, Rebecca Hall plays Christine Chubbuck, a local Sarasota TV news reporter whose erratic behavior was brushed off as mere moods until, following a severe bout with depression, she committed suicide on air. Had Chubbuck been diagnosed today, she might’ve ended up somewhere on the autism spectrum. Instead, Christine shows the time in which she existed; where the goings on inside her mind were uncontrollable and unexplainable. Hall is brilliant and the film does a good job of showing how bright and sunny of a person the character genuinely was. But this is also (rightfully) a dark cinematic experience that shows the tragedy of the time period when autism went largely undiagnosed and misunderstood.


Although it was quickly gone after being released in early 2018, Please Stand By is a refreshing example of a young person learning to live with autism. Dakota Fanning plays Wendy, an autistic young woman living in a caregiving facility who heads for L.A. in an effort to submit a script she’s written for Star Trek to a contest. Some critics dismissed the film as another teen movie with the element of autism thrown in. Yet Please Stand By does an admirable job in explaining its main character’s place on the spectrum and how she approaches the day to day. At the same time, the movie’s Star Trek angle (wonderfully explored, by the way) deserves just as much praise for showing who Wendy is apart from the autism label. A touching film all around.

RAIN MAN (Netflix)

The scene of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise coming down the escalator may be just as iconic as Hoffman saying “definitely” throughout the film, but Rain Man proves to be far more. Yes, Hoffman is astounding in this story about an emotionally unavailable man (Cruise) who discovers he has an autistic brother (Hoffman) when their father dies. Upon revisit however, it’s Cruise who proves the more fascinating to watch as he takes his character from a person so self-centered, to someone totally devoted to his brother. It’s impossible not to cry at the duo’s scene with the psychiatrist near the film’s end. At its best, Rain Man shows how empathy and understanding is not only necessary when it comes to dealing with somebody living with autism, but also how naturally inherent it can be.


Claire Danes took home both Golden Globe and Emmy awards for starring in Temple Grandin; the true story of an autistic young woman growing up in the 60s who helped to change the public perception of what autism can mean. Throughout the course of the film we see Temple deal with an outside world who doesn’t understand her as well as the ones who champion who she is. Director Mick Jackson does a good job of showing the intricacies of her thought process through wondrous illustrations. Throughout the stunning film, the audience follows Temple’s journey through key moments, such as being able to recite the text from a page after only having seen it once to getting her Master’s degree and later becoming one of the top scientists in the livestock industry. If Temple Grandin has a few obvious tearjerker moments, they’re all rightfully earned thanks to this tribute to a remarkable woman.

There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.

Till next week, stream on, stream away.

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