“Jack of the Red Hearts” is NYU through and through, directed by Tisch professor Janet Grillo and starring Gallatin student AnnaSophia Robb, known for “Bridge to Terabithia” and “The Carrie Diaries.” A story following the world of an eleven year old girl affected by autism, the film’s intensely authentic narrative stems from the experiences of Grillo, as the mother of an autistic son, and Jennifer Deaton, the screenwriter, as an aunt to an autistic girl upon whom the main character is based.
In anticipation of the Feb. 26 release date, some of the cast and filmmakers were in attendance for a preview at Cantor, with a discussion of the development and inspiration for the film following the film. Janet Grillo, producer Joey Carey, AnnaSophia Robb, Scott Cohen and John D’Leo were all in attendance.
“When I read it, it knocked me out. And the first thought I had was whoever wrote this knows,” Grillo said of receiving the script. “This has too much detail, too much authenticity, too much understanding, sophistication about autism.”
AnnaSophia Robb spoke candidly about the emotional impact that drove her to get involved with the film.
“I knew I only wanted to work on things that really impacted my heart,” Robb said. “I remember getting the script and thinking a) it impacted my heart and b) I wanted to play a really different character than the previous characters I had played before.”
Very different it was. Robb plays Jack, a rebellious young adult on parole and desperate to not only stay out of jail but also keep her sister out of foster care since their mother’s death. When she sees a flyer for a family looking for childcare, she poses as an expired and educated therapist willing to help the family look after their autistic daughter Glory (Taylor Richardson). As Jack and Glory grow closer, Jack becomes more and more determined to help prepare and improve Glory for an interview for a competitive new school, while also trying to keep her real identity a secret from the family that has trusted here with their beloved daughter.
One of the pivotal moments of the film is a scene when Cohen, who plays Glory’s father, sings and plays guitar for his family and the family seems together, carefree, and completely happy for a moment, bridging the gaps that stress in taking care of Glory had brought.
“All I really remember is practicing so much, because I was really scared of singing and playing guitar on set,” Cohen said. “To me that was really raw and vulnerable and not like you’re performing, but you’re not performing, you’re being.”
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 16th print edition. Email Anubhuti Kumar at [email protected]