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Be warned, this review will spoil the entire movie in detail, starting with the next sentence.
It was fun for the first 45 minutes or so, until Rafer is diagnosed with a fatal blood disease. This comes right out of nowhere - Rafer is in perfect health until he passes out after a ball game, after which he is bedridden for the rest of his short life. It was a real disappointment, because Rafer could have been an interesting character, but his illness reduces him to an Inspirationally Disadvantaged Littlest Cancer Patient who exists solely for his effect on neurotypicals.
At one point Rafer makes a remark that seemed to imply that he was an atheist, which got my hopes up - I know the stereotype is that all autistics are atheists, but a conversion subplot would have gone a long way towards making Rafer feel like an actual character. But no, it turns out he was just being roundabout, and he's actually way more pure and spiritual than everyone else. It's even implied that his talent for baseball is because of God helping him, not his natural ability, which makes all his victories feel hollow.
It's especially infuriating because of what Rafer could have been. The 1960s was not a good decade to be an autistic child - what happened to Rafer? When was he diagnosed? What therapies, if any, were tried? Were his parents pressured to institutionalize him? Also, what would his adulthood have been like? Would he have gone pro? If so, how would he have handled all the difficulties? If not, what would he have done with his life instead? But as usual, when given the choice between a potentially interesting autistic and a group of bland neurotypicals, the writers focused on the neurotypicals, and Rafer's death makes it much easier for them to do that.
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