Andrew Solomon is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell and the author of The Noonday Demon, a memoir about his battle with depression which won a National Book Award. It took him 10 years to complete Far From the Tree which contains portraits of families coping with what he calls "horizontal traits" in a child that are foreign to the parents such as autism, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, schizophrenia, child prodigy, and a variety of other conditions. These kids are affected by a spectrum of cognitive, physical, and psychological differences.
One of the many valuable take-aways from this documentary based on Solomon's book is its exploration of different models for dealing with children. The perfectionism/fixing model is actually an illness model, whereas an acceptance model enables "difficult" children to come into their own as individuals with singular gifts.
Director Rachel Dretzin makes the most of the intimate stories of Jason, a 40 year old with Down's Syndrome; Jack who suffers from hypermotoric autism; and Leah and Joe who meet and marry as dwarfs and then have a non-dwarf baby.
With Far from the Tree, Participant Media adds to the breadth and depth of their work as producers of socially relevant films.