Taglines: Between a silent boy and a beautiful girl lies an amazing secret.
Charlene Michaelson, her two children – teen-aged Amelia ‘Milly’ Michaelson and precocious adolescent Louis Michaelson – and their dog Max move into a new house in a new neighborhood after the passing of Charlene’s husband/the kids’ father, Donald Michaelson. Beyond life without Donald, they are all nervous about starting a new life, which, for Charlene, means getting back into the workforce after thirteen years.
Milly quickly settles into the neighborhood if only because she becomes fascinated with their next door neighbor, teen-aged Eric Gibb, who authorities believe is autistic. Orphaned Eric has never spoken a word, and without having been told about the incident, began to think he could fly at the exact moment his parents died in a plane crash. Many believe Eric’s belief is because he felt he could thus save his parents. Eric’s guardian is his dipsomaniac Uncle Hugo Gibb. Milly’s high school teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Sherman, who used to be a special needs teacher, looks after Eric.
The Boy Who Could Fly is a 1986 comedy-drama film written and directed by Nick Castle. It was produced by Lorimar Productions for 20th Century Fox, and released theatrically on September 26, 1986. The film stars Lucy Deakins as 14-year-old Milly Michaelson, Jay Underwood as Eric Gibb, a boy with autism, Bonnie Bedelia as Milly’s mother, Fred Savage as Milly’s little brother, Colleen Dewhurst as a teacher, Fred Gwynne as Eric’s uncle, Janet MacLachlan, and Mindy Cohn. After the suicide of her terminally ill father, Milly becomes friends with Eric, who lost both of his parents to a plane crash. Together, Eric and Milly find ways to cope with the loss and the pain as they escape to faraway places.
About the Story
Fourteen-year-old Amelia “Milly” Michaelson (Deakins) and her family move into a new suburban home shortly after the death of her father. Milly makes friends with her new neighbor Geneva, and Milly and her eight-year-old brother Louis (Savage) have difficulty adjusting to their new schools, while their mother Charlene (Bedelia) copes with a demotion at work and her inability to learn how to use a computer. Louis is also plagued by bullies down the street who won’t let him get around the block. During the first night at the house, Charlene tells Milly she will need her help to make this work. Milly returns to her bedroom and is talking to her pet bird when something flies past the window, but when Milly goes to investigate she sees nothing.
Milly and Geneva observe Eric Gibb (Underwood), an autistic boy living next door with his alcoholic uncle Hugo (Gwynne). Eric has never spoken a word in his life, doesn’t like to be around people and exhibits bizarre behavior related to flying, such as balancing on the roof of his house with his arms spread out like an airplane. Milly hears that Eric’s parents died in a plane crash, and that somehow, in the instant of their death, he knew; and that he did the only thing he could think of to try to save them, which was to become an airplane.
Later that night, Milly and her family watch as Eric (along with Milly’s teacher Mrs. Sherman) and three adults appear outside with Eric in a straitjacket and being restrained by two men, with Mrs. Sherman arguing with a woman there about what is best for Eric. Milly later reveals to Geneva one night when Milly’s mother is out for the evening that she finds Eric attractive.
Although Eric cannot communicate with anyone, he begins to react to Milly, first by mimicking her movements and facial expressions. Mrs. Sherman observes this interaction and asks Milly to keep an eye on Eric, explaining that because of Uncle Hugo’s drinking, Eric is in constant danger of being taken by authorities and placed in a hospital; but that when Eric was taken away before, he became so sick that he almost died.
Milly works with Eric over the course of the school year and takes notes on his progress, which is slow at first. Milly notes excitedly the first time Eric smiles on his own rather than merely copying her own smile. Eric does nothing when Milly throws balls to him, except for one day when he spontaneously reaches out and catches a stray baseball flying toward Milly’s head.
The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)
Directed by: Nick Castle
Starring: Lucy Deakins, Jay Underwood, Bonnie Bedelia, Fred Savage, Colleen Dewhurst, Mindy Cohn, Janet MacLachlan, Michelle Bardeaux
Screenplay by: Nick Castle
Production Design by: James D. Bissell
Cinematography by: Adam Holender, Steven Poster
Film Editing by: Patrick Kennedy
Costume Design by: Trish Keating
Set Decoration by: Kimberley Richardson
Art Direction by: Graeme Murray
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: September 26, 1986