Tamara Mark was a rising Broadway/Hollywood star who put her career on hold to become a full-time single mother of two non-verbal autistic children in Thiago Dadalt’s documentary Beyond.
Thiago Dadalt has been a regular contributor to Screen Critix these past few years, with his previous two films garnering glowing reviews from us and 5 stars. 2020’s ‘Where Is Nancy’ focused on early-onset dementia using the true story of Nancy Paulikas who one day went to a bathroom in a public space and never came back. While his 2018 short film Duke was a drama based on the true story of a non-verbal autistic teen and the strain his disability had on the family unit.
Now, along with executive producer Dru miller, he brings us his new documentary ‘Beyond’ which is yet another emotional rollercoaster and an alternative look at autism. The main difference this time around is that, instead of focusing on the people with autism, Dadalt emphasises the family unit and specifically mum Tamara Mark. I mentioned in my review of Duke back in 2018 that my daughter is also on the ASD spectrum and, although we are very fortunate that her disorder is not as severe as the people Dadalt spends time with during his 85-minute documentary, it does mean that Beyond (much like Duke) hits me a little bit harder.
First of all, the main takeaway from ‘Beyond’ is that Mum, Tamara Mark, is an absolute angel; the first 15 minutes of the documentary take their time to tell us all we need to know about this completely selfless individual and it’s a fascinating opening. Tamara was an actress who had worked on Broadway, she then landed the lead role in the 1985 film Fast Forward directed by Sidney Poitier. From there she trained with the same acting teacher as Sean Penn, Anjelica Huston, and Michelle Pfeiffer, landing regular work in film and TV including Cheers and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. While just on the cusp of stardom, Tamara’s two children, Harry and Ian, were diagnosed with autism. Then soon after that, her husband left them all and she had no choice but to put her career on the back burner to look after her two kids. The sacrifices she made to take care of her children are just one of many heartbreaking moments in this eye-opening film.
Dadalt spent a year with Tamara and her two boys, sleeping on the couch and filming on the fly. This technique manages to help him catch authentic moments of genuine truth that hammer home the effort Tamara has to put in to keep everything running smoothly. He captures the meltdowns at all times during the day, with a number of them regularly occurring around 3 and 6 am, while also cleverly framing more alarming outbursts such as the violent smacks and punches that are dished out to furniture, tables, walls, and other people. Another bonus is that Dadalt’s camera never seems to stop moving, there are rarely any talking heads, and it’s all filmed as naturally as possible. Although he is in the same environment and has permission to film, trying to catch everything he can provide us with constant camera movement, giving the film an almost guerrilla feel, and also with the shaky cam in full flow, Beyond has a genuine cinematic feel to it.
Beyond is fraught, sometimes depressing, yet a completely heart-warming and uplifting piece of work about the human struggle of finding a pathway to communication. It’s a high-caliber entry into the field of documentaries trying to understand ASD, and as such, it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.