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May 31, 2024 / VVS Films

Starring: Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga, Bobby Cannavale, Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson, William A. Fitzgerald

Directed By: Tony Goldwyn

A touching portrait of family and friendship, EZRA follows Max Bernal (Bobby Cannavale), a stand-up comedian living with his father (Robert De Niro), while struggling to co-parent his autistic son Ezra (introducing William Fitzgerald) with his ex-wife (Rose Byrne). When forced to confront difficult decisions about their son’s future, Max and Ezra embark on a cross-country road trip that has a transcendent impact on both their lives. Directed by Tony Goldwyn, who also appears in the film alongside additional cast members Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson and Whoopi Goldberg, Ezra is an endearing and often funny exploration of a family determined to find their way through life’s complexities with humor, compassion, and heart.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 4 out of 5

Ezra finds the right balance between tugging on your heart strings and making you laugh out loud in this truly endearing family dramedy with a stellar cast that includes strong performances from Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne and Robert De Niro, but it is the breakout performance of William Fitzgerald that truly makes this film a winner.

I originally attended the world premiere of Ezra back at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and immediately fell in love with this beautiful film. I initially described it as touching, heartfelt and hilarious, and will leave you smiling, and it happened once again. While I missed writing a full review of the film at that time, I was able to revisit it with it finally releasing this weekend, and it was just as wonderful the second time around. The honest writing revolving around the themes of family in this road trip story deliver some great moments of real life in raising an autistic child, that under the talented direction of Tony Goldwyn and with a talented cast including Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, and Robert De Niro, delivers one authentic portrayal of autism full of beauty and laughter that is bound to warm audiences’ hearts.

There is no shortage of star power in Ezra with a cast that includes the likes of Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Robert De Niro, Rainn Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Vera Farmiga and Goldwyn himself. Whether they have a little amount of screen time in a matter of one or two scenes, or a significant role in the film, every single cast member is excellent. Byrne is great as Jenna, a mother just looking out for her son’s best interest and trying to keep her family together despite the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in, Farmiga makes a large impact on viewers with her heartfelt performance in a single sequence, while De Niro is charming and rough around the edges as Stan, a father trying to support his son and make sure that he is a better father than he was. Cannavale finds the perfect balance between a self-deprecating standup comedian and a father intent on holding his son so close to keep him safe as Max, so much that he misses the fact that his son needs to begin experiencing life on his own and learning on his own. But the beating heart of the film is William Fitzgerald as Ezra. As Ezra, Fitzgerald brings an authenticity to the role, largely improvising many of Ezra’s lines to create some honest and hilarious moments that capture the essence of his wonderful character. His rapport with Cannavale is stellar, creating an outstanding and beautiful father-son relationship on screen that ensures that the film’s emotional ending pays off greatly.

Goldwyn, who also directed the film, has crafted a touching story inspired by his real life friend and his son. The story is framed within the road trip plot structure after Max has taken Ezra and they begin driving to Los Angeles for his audition for Jimmy Kimmel. It’s the perfect setting for Ezra and Max’s relationship to grow, giving each of their characters the growth and development to help drive home the film’s sentimental themes of messaging of family, growing up and embracing life. Throughout the film, audiences are treated to heartfelt moments, consistent great laughter and many authentic real moments as Ezra and his family navigate this challenging time and grow as a whole. It is honest writing, capturing the unique challenges that parents raising autistic children face, but presenting them in a positive light that captures the celebration of these children for the unique individuals they are and the resilience of their family. And given that the film is written by Tony Spiridakis, whose son also has autism and he used his own personal experience with his son as inspiration for the film’s plot and characters, there is nothing superficial about this film, delivering one emotional, moving and powerful experience for viewers.

When your film has a big name cast including Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg and many more, it’s bound to catch viewers’ attention. But Ezra is so much more than just its stars; it’s a touching film about family, raising autistic children and everything in between. Led by a breakout performance from William Fitzgerald, Ezra hits all the right emotional notes that thanks to its expert direction from Tony Goldwyn and heartfelt and honest screenplay from Tony Spiridakis, , promises to be one of the most enjoyable independent films to be released this summer.

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