DATE NIGHT features Rosie and Justin, two young adults with autism and intellectual challenges, who have defied the odds for their population by falling in love. Their relationship is mostly nonverbal; it is also pure and beautiful to watch.
The story begins when they are eight years old. Determined that their children not be lonely, their mothers encourage a friendship, inviting each other to birthday parties and family gatherings. Over time the two develop a real fondness for each other; a bad mood in Justin lifts when he knows he is going to see Rosie, while she cannot contain her joy when he walks into a room. As they mature into teens and older, with their families’ help they begin to learn some of the nuances of romance and love.
In DATE NIGHT, we see Rosie and her mother Fran talking about how romance feels different from other friendships. They talk often about Justin, circling around topics like that “special feeling” Rosie has with him, and how it differs from the feelings she has for her mother. They talk about intimacy, love, and how a date compares with going out with one of her caregivers.
Rosie’s father Peter wrestles with words like “couple” and “romance” when applied to two people who live so thoroughly in the present. But even he cannot deny the pleasure that Rosie and Justin take in each other’s company, and calls “whatever it is” very good.
Across town at Justin’s house, we see him preparing for their Friday night date. He dresses especially nicely after a shower and shave. He lays the table with candles and adjusts the centerpiece of flowers. With help from his caregiver, he orders take-out food that he knows Rosie likes, and greets her at the door when she arrives with her father.
There isn’t much talking during dinner but there is clear enjoyment in each other’s presence. Afterwards they cuddle together on Justin’s bed as they watch a video, hands entwined, Rosie resting her head on Justin’s shoulder.
Friends often ask the mothers how they have encouraged such a beautiful relationship. They consider creating a blog to answer such questions, but in the end it is a mystery – and a testament to their tenacity and belief that everyone deserves a shot at love.
DATE NIGHT will be the fourth film in a new series called called “Stories from the Spectrum,” created by director Kathryn Dietz to destigmatize autism and give voice to those who often have none. Rosie and Justin’s story will encourage families who fear a life of loneliness for their autistic children, showing how even small efforts at friendship and connection can reap huge dividends over time.
Kathryn Dietz, Independent FilmmakerSEE MEMBER PROFILE