Beautiful Pain is a moving and unusually realistic portrayal of a couple coming to terms with the fact that their son is autistic. Razlan manages an island resort for tourists and attributes his son Danial’s strange behavior to him being a “late bloomer.” His wife, Alina, correctly suspects that something more serious is going on. With the help of her sister, she brings Danial to Kuala Lumpur, where specialists confirm that he is autistic. Although she and Razlan encounter rude strangers who blame them when Danial acts out of control in public, they are also helped by numerous sensitive and supportive people, both friends and strangers.

Director Tunku Mona Riza answered questions at the screening I attended at the Asian World Film Festival. I was startled to learn that the child who plays eight-year-old Danial is a non-autistic actor named Harith Haziq. Riza had Harith live with a real autistic boy for two weeks. Whenever the boy did something odd, like rolling around on the floor at a shopping mall and making strange noises, Harith had to do the same thing.

Riza and her producer-husband, Haris Solong, showed the film all over Malaysia and used the money raised to open support centers for the parents of autistic children. Hats off to Tunku Mona Riza and everyone else associated with Beautiful Pain for creating a film that is both a good story and made the world a better place.