Ezra Review: A Story of Familial Understanding

Successes, Shortcomings, and Resonating Themes

Raising a child presents any parent with dilemmas, but few confront such complex challenges as Max, the protagonist of Tony Goldwyn’s “Ezra.” Max devotes himself fully to caring for his 11-year-old son Ezra, who is on the autism spectrum. Yet Max struggles to understand Ezra’s needs and how best to support him.

Max sees the world in stark absolutes and believes strongly that Ezra should be immersed among neurotypical children. However, Ezra’s behaviors have become disruptive at his public school. Concerned professionals recommend specialized care and treatment, while Max recoils at anything limiting Ezra’s independence. Max’s ex-wife, Jenna, accepts these recommendations but also feels torn watching her son struggle without answers.

Portraying a family navigating this reality with empathy, “Ezra” shines a light on parenting paradoxes. Determined to help Ezra thrive, Max and Jenna disagree on the best approach. Both parents earnestly aim to ease Ezra’s challenges, yet their differing perspectives strain their cooperation.

And while Max connects deeply with his son, expressionistic tendencies can undermine Ezra’s stability. “Ezra” sensibly presents autism as only one part of a complex child, challenging preconceptions through its gracious exploration of uncommon issues many families face.

Raising Ezra

Bobby Cannavale immerses himself fully in the role of Max, a devoted father struggling to properly care for his autistic son, Ezra. Max loves Ezra deeply but doesn’t always understand how to meet the boy’s needs, becoming defensive or lashing out at any suggestion that he isn’t enough. Cannavale brings heart-wrenching intensity to Max’s fear of failure, determined to shield Ezra from perceived threats while stubbornly refusing others’ help. His fierce yet fallible paternal instinct drives much of the drama.

Joining Cannavale is newcomer William Fitzgerald, who portrays Ezra with nuanced authenticity. Fitzgerald captures Ezra’s complex inner experience, from sensory sensitivities shutting out affection to insightful pop culture references communicating his perspective. The performance transcends labels to present a multidimensional child, avoiding melodrama to honor Ezra’s humanity. Their on-screen chemistry anchors the emotional core as these flawed yet loving characters learn from each other.

Meanwhile, Rose Byrne imbues Max’s ex-Jenna with compassionate practicality, prioritizing Ezra’s wellbeing over parental egos. Byrne makes Jenna’s perspective understandable even for Max, showing how caring requires cooperation, not confrontation. Robert De Niro also shines as Max’s father, Stan, bringing humor and heart to his role. From gruff dismissal to raw apology, De Niro explores Stan’s mentorship, guiding Max just as Max must guide Ezra through uncharted waters.

Together, these performances breathe life into individuals navigating messy realities with more questions than answers. Not one character has all the solutions, but through conflict and compromise, empathy, and example, they demonstrate how the community supports those raising children, especially those facing added difficulties. Ultimately, the film presents disability as one part of a person, not their whole identity, celebrating Ezra as a son cherished for who he is.

Guiding Visions

Director Tony Goldwyn demonstrates deft control in guiding “Ezra” through treacherous emotional terrain. He judiciously weaves moments of humor into a tale filled with very real human struggles. Goldwyn understands that achieving honest portrayals requires walking a delicate line. A misstep could’ve seen this drama tumble into mawkish melodrama.

Ezra Review

Thankfully, the film’s passionate cast remained steadfastly on course. Their nuanced portrayals anchored viewers even when the screenplay threatened to stray. As a father learning to truly understand his son, Bobby Cannavale pierces the heart. Rose Byrne and Robert De Niro lend equally empathetic support. And newcomer William Fitzgerald, himself on the spectrum, brings Ezra to life with touches of beauty amidst complexity.

This authenticity stems from screenwriter Tony Spiridakis drawing from his own fatherhood journey. He grasps the gut-wrenching confusion of loving a neurodivergent child while feeling lost on how to help them. Still, the “Jimmy Kimmel” subplot distracts from these deeply moving personal revelations. As Max’s stand-up career takes center stage, so does a hackneyed Hollywood story. It interrupts a drama sincerely wrestling with issues many families face each day.

Overall, “Ezra” rises above thanks to its cast embracing difficult emotions with grace. Goldwyn skillfully cultivates their nuances despite their flaws. And Spiridakis’ script shines its brightest, injecting real worlds into reel ones. With further focus on introspection over contrivance, this guiding team might have created a contemporary classic. But their efforts still leave viewers with compassion and understanding, which can move hearts in their own way.

Representation Beyond Labels

Neurodivergence tells only one part of Ezra’s story. In William Fitzgerald, viewers find a young man expressing joy, frustration, and curiosity much like any child. Though his autism informs key relationships, Fitzgerald ensures Ezra remains multi-faceted.

Director Tony Goldwyn threads this needle deftly. With care and authenticity, he shows Ezra’s distinct communication and processing, from quotes to touch aversion. Yet Goldwyn also presents Ezra’s full inner life—how school troubles or parents’ worries register on a thoughtful soul. Fitzgerald matches this balance, illuminating a character rather than a condition.

As Ezra’s champion, Bobby Cannavale imbues Max with love’s complexities. He strives to understand, yet past hurts leave Max ill-equipped. Cannavale subtly displays this dissonance, from brash advocacy to gentle resolutions. Robert De Niro and Rose Byrne similarly inhabit flawed parents, giving all for Ezra. Together, the cast ensures no character reduces another to a label.

Goldwyn spotlights this family’s shared humanity. Disagreements stem not from lack of care or effort but from a combination of both with different aims. Societal pressures complicate rather than cause conflict. Throughout, Goldwyn suggests neurodivergence as one thread in the tapestry of what binds and tests any parent-child bond. By challenging preconceptions without easy answers, Ezra reminds us that behind each diagnosis lies a life, and behind each life is a community coping together.

Finding their Way

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum comes with unique challenges with which Max grapples throughout Ezra. He fiercely loves his son but struggles to properly understand and meet Ezra’s needs, leading to clashes with Jenna over the boy’s care and occasional outbursts from Max. Yet beneath it all lies Max’s deep desire to connect with and support Ezra however he can.

His approaches do not always work, as when Max lashes out at Ezra’s doctor for recommending medication or refuses to acknowledge certain sensitivities, preferring to treat Ezra as a neurotypical child. But Max’s frustration stems more from woundedness over his inability to truly reach Ezra than any lack of care. Ultimately, what he wants most is to show Ezra the affection his own father never showed him.

During their impromptu road trip sparked by Max’s desperation, father and son gradually start to understand one another better. In a poignant scene, Ezra opens up while petting a horse under Max’s gentle encouragement. And through day-to-day interactions on their journey, they discover the moments of calm and joy that come from meeting each other where each is rather than trying to change or force change upon the other.

By the film’s end, Max realizes the importance expressed earlier of accepting Ezra for who he is rather than fruitlessly attempting to “fix” perceived problems. Their relationship, though far from perfect, has gained new foundations of appreciation, empathy, and compassion through openness, patience, and willingness to learn. In its exploration of parenting a neurodivergent child, Ezra finds emotional truth and hope in humanity’s shared capacity for growth and connection.

Encountering Understanding

While “Ezra” takes on a demanding subject, Tony Goldwyn brings compassion to complex experiences. The film succeeds in sincerely representing an autistic boy’s worldview while also capturing his family’s everyday struggles and emotions.

Goldwyn directs with care for his young protagonist, granting Ezra space to navigate scenes in his own nuanced way. William A. Fitzgerald delivers a vivid and thoughtful performance, illuminating the character’s inner life. His father Max, played profoundly by Bobby Cannavale, loves deeply yet struggles at times to relate. Their bond remains the film’s moving heart.

Melodrama arises when Max’s comedy callback becomes a literal cross-country chase. Superfluous subplots break focus from what resonates—how family members view each other amid uncertainty. Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, and others lend lived-in warmth, keeping complex reactions believable.

While not perfect, “Ezra” finds its footing sincerely, representing a family navigating new challenges with empathy, care, and humor. By prioritizing authentic relationships over formula, the film spreads understanding.

Its compassionate portrayals suggest new ways of seeing those often misunderstood. While addressing heavy themes, Goldwyn’s direction maintains a light touch. In spotlighting shared joys and sorrows, “Ezra” brings many closer to experiences unlike their own.

The Review


8 Score

Despite some dramatic lapses, Ezra's honest exploration of family ties facing neurodiversity resonates long after. Sensitively honoring the interior lives of its characters throughout, the film proves a heartfelt tale of facing life's uncertainties with empathy, care, and compassion.


  • Authentic portrayal of autism and familial relations
  • Strong performances, especially from Bobby Cannavale and newcomer William A. Fitzgerald
  • Handles complex subject matter with empathy, care, and humor.


  • Contrived cross-country plot devices become distracting.
  • Melodrama arises in places of lesser dramatic importance.
  • Occasional tonal inconsistencies

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 8
Exit mobile version