It’s hard to balance a heartwarming story with the realities that the characters may be facing within said story. Autism is a tricky subject to tackle and including a plotline about redemption can complicate matters. “Jack of the Red Hearts” tries to find a silver lining and a balance, but often falls short in its quest for both.
Jacquelyn “Jack” has just turned 18 and is on the run from her parole officer. No longer able to take care of her sister anymore, Jack steals and hides away. But after her sister is taken, Jack impersonates Donna, a caregiver, in order to make money working for Kay (Famke Janssen). Not realizing, however, that Kay’s daughter, Glory (Taylor Richardson), is low-level autistic, Jack has her work cut out for her.
Kay is ever the overprotective mother who’s put her work life and, more often than not, her marriage on hold to take care of Glory. Even her son, Robert (Israel Broussard), isn’t paid very much attention. It’s difficult to give up the power to Jack, especially when the caregiver and Glory get off to a rough start. There isn’t a lot of development here save for smiles and Jack’s attempts to do better. But there’s never that one moment when it’s clear that things have changed, no revelation for Jack to do better other than the knowledge the audience has that she needs to. Jack brings the family out of their comfort zone, but doesn’t particularly endear her to the audience in the way she goes about treating Glory or her situation.
“Jack of the Red Hearts” skirts around its serious issues to maintain a bright disposition, never allowing itself to ever go beyond what we’re given. At the same time, the film focuses less on the topic of autism and more on the story of Jack’s redemption, which can be very inspiring when it tries to be, but lacks a certain spark behind the core message it hopes to send across. To start with, the redemption part isn’t very strong and leaves a lot to be desired. While there is a lot to appreciate about the film–the scenes shot from Glory’s perspective, showing us how she sees her world and the overall family dynamic–it spends too much time trying to convince of Jack’s redemption story, when it’s the least interesting and weakest aspect of the film. Perhaps the film would have been stronger if writer Jennifer Deaton and director Janet Grillo had focused more on Glory and her part in the storyline.
"Jack of the Red Hearts" skirts around its serious issues to maintain a bright disposition, never allowing itself to ever go beyond what we're given. At the same time, the film focuses less on the topic of autism and more on the story of Jack's redemption, which can be very inspiring when it tries to be, but lacks a certain spark behind the core message it hopes to send across.