The Greatest Showman

Autism / General

Hidden in the shadows

We went to see The Greatest Showman in the cinema yesterday as a family and I have to say what an amazing way to start 2018. I would confidently say that this will be the best film we see this year. There wasn’t a moment that I could take my eyes off the screen, I found my foot tapping along to the music, my heart felt like it was bursting through my chest. It’s not often a film moves you to the point where you feel like it’s speaking directly into your heart.

What was more emotional was watching my boys watch this film. Elijah literally couldn’t take his eyes off the screen and he could barely eat his nachos (which he had spent 2hours going on about before we got to the cinema). This is a fairly grown up film. It’s a PG and totally suitable for kids, but the themes are mature and it gives a real life lesson. I wondered before we went how he would manage through it but he loved it as much, if not more than, the rest of us.

Ben, however, sat with tears streaming down his face throughout 90% of the film. Now Ben isn’t a crier. I can count the number of times I’ve seen him cry on one hand. He’s also the worlds greatest cynic, especially when he’s in a depression fog, which has been particularly thick of late.

But this film, this story, it got to him or maybe this story simply got him….


You see, this story is that of the outcast. The folk who don’t ‘belong’, the people who don’t quite have a place in our picture perfect society. Now I’m fairly certain there aren’t many who will read this who can not identify with that feeling. Even if you’ve been the most popular kid in school and you are still the most popular person in your circle, there will probably be moments where you’ve struggled with loneliness and the need to fit in.

For my boys in their Autism world, and for others on the spectrum, for the girls, for kids and for the adults this is all too often an every day, life long struggle. I have watched my child struggle to fit, to try and work out how to befriend in a world he doesn’t quite understand, to have friends on his own terms and to struggle when some pull away from that and I’ve watched the pure joy when those friendships bloom and grow.

Ben, however, as an adult who didn’t understand his Autism as a child, whose family didn’t get it and who had circumstances make his ability to fit ever more difficult still struggles. I watch him try to navigate friendships and family relationships and I see the humour that he sets up as front come crumbling down as a result. I see the hurt hidden deep below the surface and I’ve worked hard to break down the ‘I don’t care’ façade that he’s spent so long building.

Like so many of the characters in this film, Ben has hidden in the shadows. He’s been the person with a huge talent, hidden behind a lighting desk so no one ever knows his face. He is the person who can put on the most wonderful event and bring so much joy to others, while hurting with the pain of a million hearts inside his chest. There is a line in the film that says ‘everyone has an act’. Ben’s is that of the joker, when it should be that of the ring master. He has so much colour to be shared with the world. The problem is there are so many small minded folk shouting down that beautiful colour and keeping it boxed.


Ben and Elijah both have ADHD. Ben says its like he can’t switch his brain off. Elijah just flits from one topic to the next as fast as lighting. Ben really struggles with sleep, he says he just cant keep his mind quiet, there are so many ideas just swirling around constantly, he finds it hard and I find it enchanting. When Ben lets go of what others think of him, he lets his creativity flow. His dreams, thoughts and ideas are the most wonderful life giving, enchanting , thought provoking musings I have ever heard.

Elijah struggles to sleep but he is the other way round. He wakes early, he is always awake and ready to start the day hours before everyone else. He is so full of life and energy. He is full steam ahead from the second his eyes open until his eyes close at night. It’s that kind of energy that can change the world.

I saw my boys in that film and I just love that again it promoted a idea that individuality is something to be treasured.

To be different is to be wonderful and exceptional and to choose to stand out and never fade into the background is what we should all be aiming for.

I don’t doubt for a second that my wee dude is 100% the ring master. He will steer the show, he will fill others with inspiration. The thing I love about my boys is their compassion. They can be cynical and appear rude and even anti social but they have hearts bigger than the ocean. They can spot others who have been outcast or hurt and they will always reach out to them. When these boys choose to champion you, you have the greatest ally you could ever find.

When I asked Elijah (future film critic) what his favourite bit of the film was, he responded, “The quote at the end….”

‘The Noblest art is that of making others happy’

The Noblest art is that of making others happy

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