A cigarette-smoking 18-year-old is not often seen as the ideal babysitter for a severely autistic child. But in “Jack of the Red Hearts,” the unlikely pair fulfills each others’ emotional needs.
Jack (AnnaSophia Robb), a high school dropout, needs a job in order to get custody of her younger sister, who is in foster care. Her mother’s last words, “you two take care of each other,” coined “U2TC,” becomes the sisters’ mantra.
Getting a babysitting job by posing as “Donna,” a qualified college grad, Jack doesn’t realize at first that she will be taking care of an autistic child, Glory (Taylor Richardson).
Director Janet Grillo and writer Jennifer Deaton defy the code that an abundance of films presenting autism tend to follow. “Jack of the Red Hearts” is multi-faceted: autism meets foster care meets probation officers. Even a smidgen of romance finds its way into the diverse plotline.
While suspenseful scenes are prominent throughout the film, what holds the movie together are the simple, yet powerful moments. A fourth-grader being praised for scooping up yams with a spoon ordinarily isn’t where the substance of a film lies. Neither are Glory’s lines mid-film “I want potatoes please.”
But in “Jack of the Red Hearts,” the situation proves different. It is during these scenes when audiences will most covet the extra pack of tissues they brought with them.
Throughout the film, the troubled Jack ironically becomes the saving grace for so many: Glory, her sister and Glory’s parents’ marriage. The chain of events in “Jack of the Red Hearts” leaves audiences with the hope that with “U2TC” in mind, someone will save Jack, too.
“Jack of the Red Hearts” is as emotional just as it is captivating, providing unadulterated insight into not only autism, but also the essence of family.