2008’s Front of the Class is a surprisingly deft Hallmark film, which Hichki, releasing this Friday, is a remake of. The film is based on the true story of Brad Cohen, a man afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, which forces him to deal with uncontrollable ticks. After he gets tired of teacher after teacher giving up on him, after he is incorrectly labeled a class clown despite his inherent earnestness, Brad decides to become a teacher himself, aiming to do for his students everything his teachers have failed to do for him.
The film shows the depth of Brad’s struggle by cutting between his adult and childhood life, as the way people treat him continues to stay the same despite his best intentions and qualifications. The character truly comes to life through actor James Wolk’s fantastic work in this film. He pulls off Tourette’s syndrome with convincing confidence, displaying the severity of the condition while not over-blowing it. He exhibits the charm and strong will which makes Brad such a likeable character, and his performance is key to making this more than just another sappy Hallmark film. Patricia Heaton, of Raymond fame, also delivers a strong performance as his mother, never giving up on her son in a role which reminds one of the mother figure in Forrest Gump.
The key to the movie is the honesty with which Tourette’s is portrayed. Yes, it is annoying, to the victim and the people around him, but it is also uncontrollable and harmless. Tourette’s does not imply any level of mental degradation, it is like having an unfortunate case of restless leg syndrome more than anything else.
Here’s to hoping Hichki lives up to the quality of the original. Taare Zameen Par, while a great film, received some criticism for a skewed portrayal of dyslexia. Hopefully, the time and effort has been put into creating a film which builds greater compassion toward the afflicted for anyone who watches it