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“Coming Clean” Review

The 2023 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Entry Coming Clean follows an autistic woman (played by WarnerDiscovery Early Career Bootcamp Alumni Amelia Green) in her late 30s named Alexandra as she attempts to navigate the balance between her professional goals and romantic interests.

Founded by Nic Novicki, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual five-day competition in which filmmakers must create original three-to-five minute films based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme was romance.

The short opens with an emotionally distraught Alexandra venting to her therapist. She feels conflicted about her romantic feelings toward her friend Benji who she met on the app SnapVibe. The therapist reassures her that there are more nice people out there if it doesn’t work out with Benji.

Later, Alexandra’s friend Jo tells her that working with Benji for their romantic movie is a perfect way for Alexandra to express her feelings toward him. Serving as her moral support and cheerleader, Jo tells her that “This is your perception. Your worldview. How you see life. Maybe what you love about him is really what you love about yourself.” The film ends on a hopeful yet ambiguous note as Alexandra greets Benji in their video call.

Said Green, “The film is for anyone who is not afraid to feel something and reflect on their own thoughts and judgements about what is the right or wrong way to act, live, and think. Many people like me find most relationships ambiguous. I also experience the world very passionately and I tend to process my emotions best by talking it out and analyzing them in detail. We tried to demonstrate what it feels like for someone like me to deliberate on, and how to exist in, a shared space with other people.”

In a subtle nod to the dialogue-focused film My Dinner with Andre (1981), Coming Clean explores the concept of subjective reality versus objective truth. At the beginning of the short, Alexandra already has planted into her mind that Benji won’t reciprocate her feelings toward him if she expresses them. It isn’t until she talks to her friend Jo that she is reassured that you won’t know how he truly thinks unless you ask him.

Said Green, “This film should encourage people to think about how they perceive autism, particularly autistic women, as well as trauma. There is no one autistic person that is the same. In addition, I hope that people can recognize this is also a commentary on how autistic people expend so much time and energy masking, that they often find themselves unable to turn it off, even when they are home alone. That turns into an almost autonomic need to perform, like our lives are a television show that never ends. The film demonstrates blurred lines between three worlds: reality (the audience seeing the film and us acting in the film), fiction (the real lives of Alex, Jo, and Benji), and the fictional world the characters were discussing (as they too were making a film for this competition).”

Follow Green on TikTok and Instagram.

Meet the Author

Jeremy Hsing

Jeremy Hsing is an Entertainment and News Media Apprentice at RespectAbility. Hsing is a graduate of UCLA with a specialty in sci-fi/drama TV writing. He is passionate about using his psychology background and lived experience as a second-generation Taiwanese immigrant to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities. When Hsing started his undergraduate education, he had a series of debilitating panic attacks that led him to seek professional mental health resources and was then diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Since then, he has unlearned the stigma surrounding mental health and devotes his life to telling stories to educate and inspire others to seek therapy in hopes of achieving emotional catharsis.

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