Thoughts On Rain Man

What do I think of this film about an autistic man? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Some of you might be surprised to realize that this past weekend was the first time I ever watched Rain Man. My wife and I were looking for a movie on Hulu to watch and she suggested that one, so we did. Now normally when I watch, I’m multitasking, such as being on my phone or on the Switch at the same time, but I was definitely paying attention.

Let’s say something right up at the start. Dustin Hoffman does an incredible job playing the autistic man Raymond. I kept saying that over and over to Allie. His delivery and his mannerisms were excellent.

In the movie, Charlie is set to inherit a large amount of money and wants it, but finds out that it goes to an autistic brother he didn’t know he had. At the start, Charlie is annoyed by his brother. For example, one night, Raymond hears some strange noises coming from Charlie’s room and goes and sits on the bed in there where Charlie and his girlfriend are under the sheets. Yeah. We all know what’s going on. Charlie is completely oblivious to this until his girlfriend says something.

Sadly, the scene ends in anger. Charlie lets Raymond have it and Charlie’s girlfriend decides for the time being there are better men to pursue. This leaves Charlie further irritated with his brother but he wants to put up with him for the money.

He then learns about having to deal with his brother’s mannerisms. If Raymond needs to watch the People’s Court at the same time everyday, then they will watch it at the same time even if that means having to encourage a family of strangers to let them in and turn off the cartoons. Truly Raymond lives in his own world where he’s unaware of the discomfort of those around him by some of his actions.

We also learn that Raymond has an encyclopedic memory as he reads the phone book and tells a lady the next day he meets her phone number. He can also do math in his head. I thought I was really good at that, but Raymond in the movie is far better. This has its advantages when Charlie takes Raymond to Vegas and does some card counting.

Yet in this, something happens over time. Charlie actually grows to love his brother and be an advocate for him. He grows to show love to his brother and at that point, the money doesn’t really matter anymore. He would rather get to spend the time with his brother.

I don’t want to say more about it, but as someone on the spectrum, I really do think this gave an accurate portrayal of someone on the spectrum. Not high-functioning, to be sure, but someone who is on it. I could recognize some of my own extreme thinking in Raymond at times. It made perfect sense when Raymond got paralyzed on a crosswalk as it were because the sign suddenly switched to “Don’t Walk.”

Checking the movie on IMDB, I found it was the highest grossing movie of the year. There’s a reason why. Autism can be a strange world to those who don’t know about it and it’s becoming more and more of a reality as more and more people are learning about autism.

As I say that, I think of my friend Paul Compton who called me one day wondering about how to handle the news that his son had been diagnosed with Aspergers. So many people he said acted like he had received a diagnosis of cancer. I gave a different response. I told him to give thanks. He was going to learn to see the world through a whole new set of eyes. Learning to love the other, the one who is so different from us, always stretches us, but in the end, we are the better for it. At the start, Raymond was not easy to love, but in the end, it was difficult to not love him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters