God’s Ears (2008)
-Review by Nic Brown-
What does it mean to be a fighter? Is a fighter someone who steps into the boxing ring and goes toe to toe with an opponent? Or is a fighter a person who struggles against all odds to achieve something others thought they could not do? In Michael Worth’s film GOD’S EARS the answer is both.
Worth plays Noah Connelly, an autistic man who works at a local boxing gym. While Noah is functional and able to both care for himself and hold down his job, he is socially withdrawn and reluctant to deviate from his strict daily routine. He regularly visits a therapist (Mitzi Kapture) to help him with his shyness and the difficulty he has expressing himself, but his progress is slow. Then he meets Alexia (Margot Farley). Alexia is the top earning stripper at a local club, but she is feeling dissatisfied with her life and avoids any kind of commitment in relationships.
One day is blurring into the next for Alexia, until at the end of an all night shift at the club, she stops in a small diner to have breakfast. Noah hears her comment about her eggs and to the surprise of the diner staff who’ve known him as a regular for years, he talks to Alexia…about eggs. Eggs are a subject he is extremely knowledgeable about and Noah uses this as a bridge to overcome his inhibitions about talking with people. In fact, he is so excited by talking to Alexia that Noah breaks his daily routine and is late leaving the diner. This simple act is the start of something new for both Alexia and Noah as she follows Noah to learn more about him and as he becomes more adept at expressing himself.
Noah and Alexia strike up a friendship and when she learns that Noah plans to ride for several hours on a bus out in the country to pick up his mother she offers to take him in her car. Still somewhat nervous about her relationship with Noah, Alexia asks one of her friends, another dancer at the club named Candy (Karen Kim) to go with them. They end up at Noah’s grandmother’s farm in the country where they meet his Uncle Steve (Tim Thomerson). Uncle Steve is also autistic, and the Noah’s grandmother helps Alexia to better understand Noah and where he comes from. This understanding grows when she discovers that Noah’s mother, whom he never knew because she left when he was very young, has recently passed away. Noah has come to collect her ashes.
Noah and Alexia’s relationship continues to mature and it faces many obstacles, not the least of which is Alexia’s fear of Noah understanding what she does for a living, not to mention her even bigger fear of committing to anyone. Noah also has his own issues to resolve. His boss at the boxing gym, Lee Robinson (John Saxon), tries to help Noah by encouraging him in his relationship with Alexia and more importantly, by letting Noah fight with one of the local boxers. Although the fight is only a sparring practice round, it is real contact and a true challenge for Noah as he tries to prove to himself that he can do it and that he is as good as, or maybe even better than, the other men who step into the ring.
GOD’S EARS is a truly touching film. It takes an honest look at autism and at the way people relate to each other both in love and in friendship. Michael Worth not only stars in the film, he also wrote and directed it. It says something about a filmmaker when they create a role as challenging as that of an autistic boxer for themselves. Worth brings his character to life with a combination of sensitivity and strength, making it clear that while autism creates challenges for Noah, he is still a man with all the feelings and needs that any of us have. Margot Farley’s Alexia is an equally interesting role as her character deals with relationship issues that stem from a sense that she is not worthy of a good relationship because of the course her life has taken. In fact, it is this feeling that threatens to destroy her relationship with Noah.
The film is shot in a unique visual style that is especially noticeable at the start when cinematographer Neil Lisk and director Worth show Noah without revealing his face, while often showing close ups of only Alexia’s face, leaving the world around her out of focus, a visual metaphor for what the two characters struggle with inside. So take the time to watch GOD’S EARS. It is a strong, character driven drama that shows what it really means to fight, and how sometimes the most challenging opponent anyone can face is themselves.