Jack of the Red Hearts, from director Janet Grillo, tells the story of a troubled teen who lies her way into a job working as the companion to an low functioning autistic child. Both the director and the writer (Jennifer Deaton) have experience with autistic children. They crafted a touching film about an untrained con artist who manages to connect with the child. There are spoilers ahead.
Jack of the Red Hearts stars AnnaSophia Robb as Jack. She just turned 18 and aged out of foster care. She wants to get her younger sister, Coke (Sophia Anne Caruso), out of foster care and find a way for them to be together. Jack is on probation and has a record.
Jack sees an ad for someone to be a companion for a difficult child. She finds out about the interview appointment of a trained companion and cons her way into the interview instead. She swipes the resume and recommendations of the trained person – Donna – and pretends to be her.
The child’s mother (Famke Janssen) is desperate for help. She’s indulgent and not very good with her daughter, Glory (Taylor Richardson). Glory is basically out of control. She’s nonverbal, does whatever she wants, can’t be convinced to do things like go to bed or sit down at the table to eat. Jack is desperate, too. She needs the job with room and board so she can save to collect her sister later.
Glory’s family includes her mom, her dad (Scott Cohen), and her brother (Israel Broussard). Her brother is still in high school and is gobsmacked to have the beautiful Jack in his house. Of course he thinks she’s a college graduate and older than him. We don’t see it until well into the film, but Robert has a pretty solid relationship with Glory and can manage her well.
Glory is fascinated with colors and patterns and lights. She runs off and climbs up to high places like rooftops and tree tops. Purely by instinct, Jack is able to deal with her. The longer she’s in the house, the more she learns about autism. She gets even better at dealing with Glory. Glory makes progress with Jack. Real progress.
But, of course, Jack’s house of lies comes tumbling down in the third act. Her probation officer collects her. It’s a touching and bittersweet ending. Glory improved with her. Coke must stay in a foster home.
At the same time, it’s a hopeful ending. Jack and Coke might have a brighter future in a few years. Glory could continue to improve. I’m certainly rooting for these characters to have better lives at a future time. There’s so much love among these people who struggle to do their best, do the right thing.
The film is on Prime, FreeVee and Plex.