‘White Frog’ is an interesting look at Asperger’s

Booboo Stewart, Joan Chen and B.D. Wong in a family moment in 'White Frog'
Booboo Stewart, Joan Chen and B.D. Wong in a family moment in ‘White Frog’

White Frog is the story of a young teen with Asperger’s Syndrome and how he deals with his condition in the wake of a family tragedy.  “Nick Young” (Booboo Stewart) struggles with his condition but thanks to his very close relationship with his brother “Chaz” (Harry Shum, Jr.), he gets by.  Chaz watches out for Nick and cares for him very much.

There is an incident where one of Chaz’s friends insults Nick and as a result, Chaz doesn’t go with his friend to their usual Friday night festivities.  Instead he stays with Nick until he has calmed down and then heads out to join his friends on his bike.  Suddenly we’re at a funeral and Chaz is being laid to rest.  His mother (Joan Chen) falls apart which is not surprising.  We live in a world where no parent should outlive a child.  His father (BD Wong) doesn’t seem to be doing as badly although he seemingly finds solace solely in his faith.

But Nick is crushed.  Chaz always had his back.  Chaz treated him like a big brother would treat his little brother, with much love and affection.  Now that’s gone.  When his mother rids the house of any reminder of Chaz, Nick has an even more difficult time.  Fortunately, “Doug” (Tyler Posey), one of Chaz’s friends sees that Nick is not doing well and responds by doing something he wouldn’t do before.  He invites Nick into his world, the world where Chaz hung out with Doug and friends; a world that Nick had always wanted to enter and was never able to.  Nick also finds some healing energy at the “Firehouse”, a ‘safe place’ that Chaz spent a lot of time at.

Director Quentin Lee makes interesting films (Ethan Mao, The People I’ve Slept With) but this isn’t his best work.  Asperger’s is a powerful theme to explore in a film; however, perhaps seeing how a person with this condition deals with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one isn’t the best way to delve into the topic.  The added complication of Chaz’s “secret” being revealed and how his family reacts on learning about it is a nice touch and the dry language and guidance of “Dr. King” (Amy Hill) is very effective.  But stellar talents like BD Wong and Joan Chen are mostly wasted in their relatively minor roles.   Stewart is excellent in portraying the emotional distance and inability to communicate and form relationships with people that those who are born with this still mysterious affliction.   The film is a bit slow but given the emotional gravity of the subject matter, that’s understandable.

This isn’t a bad film but it is a movie that could have been a lot better.

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