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Neurodiversity Through Film – The Mitchells vs. the Machines

This movie is about a not so ordinary family who goes on a wild, cross-country road trip and soon end up trying to survive the machine apocalypse. The Mitchells are a family who are all in one way or another neurodivergent. Katie Mitchell is a girl with a talent for film making and computer animation. Aaron Mitchell is a kid who, secretly apart from family, loves dinosaurs more than anything. Linda Mitchell is a mother who loves her family and for a time, strives to be like their neighbors, the Posey’s. Rick Mitchell, a nature-obsessed and technophobic father who would do anything to keep his daughter safe. Finally, there is Monchi, the family pet who can is either a dog, pig, or a loaf of bread.

Because of her neurodivergent traits, Katie never really fit in anywhere when she was young and all she had for a long time was her family. This changed when Katie got herself accepted into a film college and it was a place with people a lot like her, perhaps an affinity group. This was a real dream come true for Katie, though Rick was not so sure. Rick can be considered a little more neurotypical than Katie, which makes it hard for him to understand her pursuits. Both Katie and Rick loved each other but were different from one another with different perspectives and only wished to be understood, trying to justify themselves yet neither of them was wrong nor right. The two originally had a strong bond but then they got into a place where they were like opposites, unable to see each other’s different points of view and admit that their own may be wrong. Rick cares a lot for Katie but was unable to show her love and communicate it the way she needed, which made her feel like he didn’t care. This is ironic because the way Rick could have done it is very simple; to just say it and not overcomplicate it, but he did not do this at first and neither did Katie. Overall, they close themselves off from the other’s perspective which almost ruined their relationship.

Meanwhile, other members of the Mitchells family were also reluctant to let Katie go. All this led to some family tension and to make sure it would not last forever, Rick decides to take the family on a road trip so they can bond together, rather than letting Katie go to the airport alone.

Things get crazy when a maniacal smartphone named PAL starts the machine apocalypse and attempts to blast all humans into outer space. All the humans get captured, except for the Mitchells who travel all the way to PAL’s headquarters to stop her evil plan. During this time, Katie and the rest of the Mitchells rediscover the importance of family; No matter how hard things get (arguing, disagreement, embarrassment, etc.) and despite their differences, family should always stick together and understand one another. This is especially said for Katie and Rick, the former believing her father did not care when he really did, seeing how much he had sacrificed for her and even though he sometimes fails, he still tries.

If that is not enough, the film also appears to touch on how neurodivergent folk are a lot more capable than they appear. As was mentioned before, the Mitchells, namely Linda sought to be normal/neurotypical and her idea of this was the Posey’s, their neighbors who are popular on Instagram. However, the Mitchells are not this and this is what makes them amazing, their uniqueness and quirkiness, they need only to embrace it. People with neurodivergent traits are often not given as much of a chance as neurotypical folk. However, when they have the right motivation and good environment, they can be just as, if not more capable than the neurotypical and after all, what gives better motivation than the machine apocalypse, eh?


The Mitchells vs. The Machines will be screened in the Stone Hall Coffee House on Monday October 2nd from 8 – 10 p.m.

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