Friday, June 22 , 2018, 8:44 am | Fog/Mist 60º


Cinema in Focus: ‘The Accountant’

2 Stars — Disturbing

Every parent of a child with autism wants them to thrive. However, the way they help varies according to the values of the parent.

If the parent believes that the best course is to teach the child to become tough so as to not be victimized, then that parent will set in motion a far different training program than a parent who values tenderness. It is clear that the child raised in one home will be very different from a child raised in another.

In Gavin O’Connor’s disturbing film, The Accountant, we see the result of the child raised to be tough.

The story begins when Christian Wolfe (Seth Lee as a child, Ben Affleck as an adult) is a child struggling with a diagnosis within the autism spectrum. We listen as a psychiatrist is recommending a free residential treatment that lowers the sensory input and tenderly assists in his growth.

Christian’s mother (Mary Kraft) wants to choose this course of treatment, but her husband, Christian’s father (Robert C. Treveiler), is a military man who rejects recommendation and instead chooses a violent and abusive martial arts training for Christian and his younger brother, Brax (Jon Bernthal).

Overwhelmed as the violent responses of Christian intensify, Christian’s mother leaves the boys to the machinations of their father.

The story jumps to present day where Chris has taken the savant aspects of his autism to inordinate levels of mathematical skill and combined it with years of weapons and martial arts training to become “the accountant” for a select and often criminal clientele. The way he gained those unique skills is one of the facets of this uniquely complex journey he is on and we will leave it to your discovery.

But with a moral code that is a brutal extension of his own difficult journey, we walk with him through circumstances that allow him to use his autism and his abuse to become extremely wealthy. A wealth he anonymously chooses to use to help others with his condition.

While on this journey, Christian happens upon two very different people who become companions in his trek. The first is a rather incompetent but decorated Treasury agent named Ray King (J.K. Simmons). The second is a beautiful and uniquely gifted woman named Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

The empowering relationship Christian has with Ray helps him express his unique moral code, while his attraction to Dana embodies his desire for relationship. In both of these interactions, his autistic responses impair and yet assist him in accomplishing his own unique goals.

As we walk this journey with Christian we are both appalled and compassionate. Appalled at the lethal skill and empty heart but compassionate when we see his struggles as he attempts to manage the pain not only of his father’s abuse but the emptiness of his soul.

Though he was named Christian, he lacks any sense of supportive faith community that could have helped provide him with a point of reference beyond his pain or stepped in to protect him from the abuse.

Before Dana enters his life, he had only a voice on his phone acting much as a mother, handling the details of his life when he needed to be safe from danger. However, this disembodied voice provided guidance that was wholly lacking in helping Christian become a whole person. He deserved so much more as do we all.


» If you had a child with some form of impairment, how would you help your child to succeed in life? What are your values for human thriving?

» When a person is lacking the ability to read social cues or empathize with others, how do we help them form relationships and find love in their life?

» When you see an abusive father and a mother who leaves her sons in the hands of such a man, which parent do you hold most accountable? What do you do when you see either abuse or abandonment in the lives of the younger people you know?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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