A dramatic-comedy, inspired by the lives of two people with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, whose emotional dysfunctions threaten to sabotage their budding romance. Donald is a good-natured but hapless taxi driver with a love of birds and a superhuman knack for numbers. Like many people with AS, he likes patterns and routines. But when the beautiful but complicated Isabel joins the autism support group he leads, his life – and his heart – are turned upside down.
User Reviews: Many people have doubts about Josh Hartnett’s acting abilities. He’s landed some good performances in his earliest roles (The Virgin Suicides, O), but once the teenagers adopted him as the next big celebrity crush he got swallowed in the hype that led to Pearl Harbor. This destroyed any credibility he might have as an actor, and he has spent the rest of the decade trying to prove himself as a serious actor and to get rid of the hearth throb image.
He completely succeeds in this goal with Mozart and the Whale. He plays Donald, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome so well, you forget it’s him. The performance is rough, unpolished and honest, and while it might not be technically perfect it’s evident Hartnett was very inspired and motivated. It is a very good performance, and anybody who doubts his acting abilities should watch this film before making a judgment. The only problem is: not many people saw this film. And it is a shame.
Radha Mitchell plays Isabelle, a young woman with Asperger’s, and the film follows the two protagonists fall in love. Mitchell is also good in her role, but is less sympathetic; that is, until you realize what it seems like annoying, shallow girl, is actually the display of her Asperger’s syndrome.
The film itself, however, is full of the problems. It tries to be a romantic comedy about an unusual couple, but it doesn’t work that way. Rumor says something went wrong in the production, and due to some executive meddling the film failed to be a drama it was meant to be. Allegedly, this made Josh Hartnett mad and he chose not to promote the film, which is a shame, because it’s probably his best performance to date.
Sometimes, it feels like a genuine story about people with Asperger’s meeting, falling in love and having a relationship (it is based on true people and events), but at the moments it is reduced to the common denominator. You simply can’t do that with a theme like this; this one doesn’t work as a romantic comedy with quirky protagonists. It also feels like good 30 minutes of it is missing; it’s rushed, especially in the last third.
Still, even simplified and "Hollywoodised", this film is a good watch. But it’s mainly because of the main cast, particularly Hartnett. He finds his voice like never before and manages to make us believe he’s an individual with Asperger’s living his life, falling in love, and trying to resolve everyday problems.
At the end, the film is disappointing, but the best scenes deserve to be watched over and over again. Essentially, this film is a missed potential with some great acting.