'Ezra' review: Bobby Cannavale, Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne and William A. Fitzgerald film leads with sincerity for autism representation

The movie directed by Tony Goldwyn and written by Tony Spiridakis finds the delicate balance between humour and emotion

Bobby Cannavale, Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne and William A. Fitzgerald star is Ezra, directed by Tony Goldwyn and written by Tony Spiridakis. The film follows Max (Cannavale) who ends up taking his autistic son Ezra (Fitzgerald) on an road trip amid particular struggles to co-parent with his ex-wife Jenna (Byrne).

The film is loosely based on Spiridakis' life as the father of an autistic son. The cast also includes Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson and Whoopi Goldberg.

Robert De Niro, Bobby Cannavale and in
Robert De Niro, Bobby Cannavale and in "Ezra" (VVS Films)

Max is a stand-up comedian and his brand of comedy largely focuses on talking about his life, including his autistic son Ezra. One thing that's certain about Max is that he absolutely loves his son with all his heart. He would do anything in the world for Ezra.

Jenna and Max have to make a serious decision about their son when Ezra ends up in the hospital. But when Max calls out the doctor for being incentivized to push drugs by pharmaceutical companies, after insisting Ezra needs to go on antipsychotics, Max loses his temper and physically attacks the physician. The result is that Max needs to stay away from Ezra for three months.

Initially trying to follow the rules, that's not working for Max, who then decides to take matters into his own hands, breaking Ezra out of Jenna's home, the travelling on a road trip from New Jersey to Michigan.

While Max's father Stan (De Niro) tries to stay out of the consequences of Max' s decision, after trying to stop him from kidnapping Ezra, Stan ends up driving with Jenna to track them down.

Robert De Niro and Bobby Cannavale in
Robert De Niro and Bobby Cannavale in "Ezra" (VVS Films)

The strength of the story told in Ezra is the sincerity of its characters and their circumstances, executed wonderfully by the film's cast.

It's appealing that the script from Spiridakis never tries to dictate to the audience that Max is right or wrong in any particular moment. At some points you may think he's be irrational, but at others you may believe he's just advocating for his son. The film is more about sharing how a father with a neurodivergent child navigates a whole host of feelings, from a place of love.

What's not entirely explained in detail in Ezra is that Max seems to come to the understanding that there's the possibility of his own undiagnosed autism, which impacts how he operates as a parent, alongside his own trauma from his childhood.

While most would expect for real-life couple Cannavale and Byrne play particularly well with each other on screen, it shouldn't be underestimated how much that chemistry creates a solid, and necessary, groundwork for this story.

In Fitzgerald's film debut, the autistic lead actor is a shining light in the moving, providing everything from comedic relief, to emotionally impactful moments as a character who is misunderstood. There are also lovely moments when the film explores co-regulation with Ezra with authenticity and care.

Ezra pushes us in the right direction for autism representation on screen, and behind the camera, while hopefully we can move the dial so more people who are neurodivergent can see characters that look like them on screen. But the film finds the delicate balance humour and emotion.