The Boy Who Could Fly is a 1986 film directed and written by Nick Castle.
Amelia "Milly" Michaelson (Lucy Deakins) and her family have had a tough year. Her father has passed away, causing them to move to a new neighborhood. Milly and her brother Louis (Fred Savage) have a rough time adjusting to their new schools and their mom Charlene's (Bonnie Bedelia) return to the workforce has her working with a computer that she can't figure out.
Milly soon meets her neighbor Eric Gibb (Jay Underwood), an autistic young boy living with an alcoholic uncle named Hugo (Fred Gwynne). He never socializes with others, hasn't spoken at all, and sometimes raises his arms in the air to pretend to be an airplane, since his parents died in a plane crash. As soon as the two meet, Eric and Milly warm up to each other and become fast friends. However, with Hugo's alcoholism and Eric's strange behavior, Eric could be taken away to a hospital at any moment. Furthermore, a couple of strange incidents makes Milly start to believe that Eric might really have the ability to fly...
This film has examples of:
- Alcoholic Parent: Uncle Hugo is Eric's guardian, but he constantly drinks and this has caused him to lose guardianship over Eric a couple of times.
- Big Damn Heroes: Louis's dog, Max, chasing off one of the neighborhood bullies dog is one of the most triumphant examples of this trope.
- Bittersweet Ending: Eric flies away and disappears, and Milly stays while living her life and waiting for his return. In the meantime Louis stands up to his bullies, Charlene adapts herself to work, Max recovers from his injuries, and Uncle Hugo stops drinking. But the last scene all but states that Eric comes back to her.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: In a, uh, way...
- Disability Superpower: Eric REALLY can fly...
- Don't Try This at Home: A disclaimer stressing this was shown before its airings on the Disney Channel.
- Driven to Suicide: It's revealed that Milly and Louis's father did not die from cancer, but killed himself shortly after the diagnosis.
- '80s Hair: All over the place, but Milly especially.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Most of the movie is based on whether or not it's true, or a metaphor. Turns out, there's nothing metaphorical about it.
- Flight: Played with, as to whether Eric can fly or not. He can.
- Hollywood Autism: Eric, starting with the obvious fact that it somehow gave him superpowers.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Eric is autistic, but in many ways, he's the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Milly. Oh, yeah, and that flying thing isn't some derangement, but an actual superpower that triggers eventually.
- Meaningful Name: Milly's real name is Amelia. In a movie about flight. On top of this, Milly was also Nick Castle's mother's name.
- The Noun Who Verbed: The title.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Eric and Milly's sad-puppy faces would be right at home in an ASPCA advert.
- Rule of Three: Louis attempts to drive his tricycle around the block three times throughout the film, and all three times he encounters and is chased by bullies. The first time, he barely manages to get away, the second time they get him and beat the crap out of him, the third time Louis arms himself to the (G-rated) teeth and gives them what-for.
- Secretly Dying: Milly and Louis' father kept his condition secret from them and their mother because he didn't want them to worry. But instead of seeking treatment, he took his own life and the family's livelihood began to spiral downward from there.
- Spoiler Title: The "amazing secret" in the tagline is that Eric can fly.
- Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Eric is ignored at school and Louis is attacked by local boys.
- Suicidal "Gotcha!": Sort of. When Eric and Milly find themselves cornered at a rooftop by the mental hospital people, they jump off together... and then they start actually flying.
- They Would Cut You Up: After Eric disappears, Milly and Uncle Hugo and their families are all taken by the government and experimented on for a while to see if there's something in them that can say how Eric got his flying powers. Aside from an extended period of annoyance until they're let go, nothing bad comes from it.
- Tragically Disabled Love Interest: Eric, for Milly. His autism and mutism are played for drama.
- Urine Trouble: Louis defeats the neighborhood bully with a squirt gun full of piss.
- The Voiceless: Due to his refusal to socialize with others, Eric never speaks. The first actual words he says are his Love Confession to Milly.