FLY AWAY The line between motherhood and martyrdom can be thin for a lot of women, particularly those with special-needs children: The maternal instinct swells and gets stuck in warrior mode, laying waste to other relationships and even the woman’s sense of self. Writer-director Janet Grillo efficiently captures all of that in Fly Away, in which single mom Jeanne (Beth Broderick) wages daily battles — with her ex-husband, with school officials, in her flailing business — to take care of Mandy (Ashley Richards), her autistic teen daughter. It’s not accurate to say the film is one-note (there are flashes of humor throughout, as well as lots of tenderness between mother and child), but from its frantic opening to its melancholy ending, Fly Away buckles the viewer in the emotional and psychological grinder of what it means to have every hour of every day defined by the consuming demands of a child. The lead performances are solid, as are the supporting actors (especially Reno, as a no-nonsense but sympathetic principal, and Greg Gormann as an almost too perfect would-be suitor), and Grillo is more than competent as a director. But Fly Away could have been stronger if its antiseptic visual style, which anchors it in old-fashioned TV movie mode, had been more adventurous in shouldering some of the weight of depicting the emotional and psychic anguish of the story. (Ernest Hardy) (Music Hall, AMC Covina)
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