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Ben X Review

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As an alternative to getting bullied at school, an autistic teenager (Timmermans) retreats into the world of online role-playing games.

★★★★★

This debut from Belgian Nic Balthazar is a shrewd exercise in expectation-subversion, although beneath its pulled rugs lies a heavy morality tale. At first you think it’s going to be a cautionary yarn about the psychological dangers of online gaming. Then we learn that Ben (a twitchy Greg Timmermans) is an autistic who’s often bullied at school, and that his dependence on the game is a useful coping mechanism. Direct-to-camera interviews with his teachers and parents hint at a terrible event we’ve yet to see; an overused device, but the revelation is audacious. While it’s emotionally effective, it’s out-there enough to make you question the film’s claim to be based on real events.

Nic Balthazar's morality tale is a shrewd exercise in expectation-subversion.

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