The Rainbow Kid is a 2015 Canadian drama film directed by Kire Paputts. It was shown in the Discovery section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
The film, an expansion of Paputts’ prior short film Rainbow Connection, stars Dylan Harman as Eugene, a teenage boy with Down syndrome who sees a rainbow following a thunderstorm and, inspired by his favourite book, sets off on a journey to find the pot of gold at the end of it.
You can view the theatrical trailer for the film here:
The Rainbow Kid is a dark, sober story about Eugene, a teenager with Down Syndrome. His life at the start of the film isn’t easy; his days at school are lonely, as he learns in a special education classroom where he is the only student. He is often bullied by other kids at school for being different and has trouble attracting the attention of girls. Eugene makes it through his daily difficulties thanks to his avid interest in rainbows. He is fascinated by their beauty and symbolism, believing that one day he will find the pot of gold at the end of his own rainbow.
Eugene’s story takes a dramatic turn when he discovers that his terminally ill mother is about to be evicted from their shared home. While Eugene makes some money raking leaves for neighbors, it isn’t enough. Deciding that he must help his mother, he sets out for rural Ontario in search of opportunities to make money. What he doesn’t know is that his mother passed away shortly after his departure.
He meets a host of interesting and unusual people along his journey, such as an old, alcoholic man who teaches him dowsing, the art of using sticks or rods to find water, metal, and gems below ground, which Eugene hopes will help him find his pot of gold. When Eugene discovers his friend’s alcohol problem (and the fact that his money has gone missing) he leaves the old dowser’s company.
Next, Eugene meets a washed-up punk rocker named Elvis after his bike gets a flat tire. Elvis almost beats Eugene up when he discovers him attempting to steal a new bike but stops when he realizes that Eugene isn’t trying to do anything wrong. Eugene stays with Elvis for a while, realizing that the strange man’s bravado and lewdness toward women is a mask for his depression over his inability to form deep connections with anyone. Before Eugene moves on, Elvis encourages him to call his mother, telling Eugene how much he misses his own family.
Eugene’s next acquaintance is a cheery hoarder and his daughter, Anna. Anna also has Down Syndrome, so she and Eugene begin to become close. When their relationship begins to become physical, Eugene is uncomfortable at Anna’s apparently vast experience with sex. He then discovers a webcam in her room, which she claims is for communication with her mother. However, Eugene discovers that Anna was most likely taken illegally as a baby, and her “father” is probably not her actual parent. Eugene realizes that the webcam in Anna’s room is there so that her father can make and sell pornographic videos of her. Horrified, Eugene leaves, bringing Anna with him. They spend a romantic night in the woods together.
The two continue on their journey, coming across a graveyard of old, broken-down cars. They joyfully play in the wrecked automobiles. Their good time turns dangerous when a car’s brakes fail, sending them and the car crashing into a tree. Anna passes out, likely suffering a concussion. Eugene knows she needs help, so he leaves her on the porch of a nearby house, rings the doorbell, and runs away.
Eugene next comes across a kind, elderly woman who tells him about her estranged son. She comforts Eugene when he sees a news report of his own disappearance. The two encounter a group of robbers, who brutally kill the woman. Eugene follows the robbers, and one of them uses Eugene’s mental handicap to earn money panhandling. Eugene plays along, pretending to be less intelligent than he is, to trick the robbers until police find the old woman’s body and arrest them.
After this encounter with the police, Eugene agrees to take up permanent residence in a group home for people with mental handicaps. He quickly discovers that he is more intelligent and capable than many of the other residents, but that they seem happier than he is. At the end of the film, Eugene no longer believes that there is a pot of gold at the end of his rainbow.
Cast and Characters
- Dylan Harman as Eugene
- Krystal Nausbaum as Anna
- Nicholas Campbell as Bill
- Julian Richings as Elvis Grimes
- Tony Nappo as Ray
- Maria Vacratsis as Meredith
- Neil Crone as Keith
- Bruce Hunter as Albert
- Michelle Arvizu as Marla
- Louise Nicol as Deb
- Samantha Espie as Mrs. Colby
The Rainbow Kid was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was produced by Made By Other People and distributed by A71 Entertainment. The film was written by Kire Paputts, Noel S. Baker, and John Frizzell. Kire Paputts also served as the director and producer of the film.
When talking about the film, Kire Paputts stated,
“Apart from making what we believe will be a kick ass movie, we’re also trying to create an awareness of the lack of films and TV that use actors with special needs. It’s rare and it shouldn’t be this way because there are a lot of talented actors who just happen to have a disability. When more mainstream films showcase actors with special needs, they tend to do it with kid gloves, but I’m not interested in that. I want to break down barriers. I want to make audiences see the special needs community in a different way. Some people are going to find the film’s content disturbing, and some might even be wary that an actor with Down syndrome can carry a film. I want to prove them wrong. By showing people with special needs persevering in situations that would be tough for “normal” people, we’re helping break down those barriers surrounding the expectations or assumptions as to what a person with special needs should say, how they should act, or what they can and can’t accomplish. Everyone struggles, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone makes decisions they regret – even people with special needs.”
Chris Knight of the National Post writes,
“The notion of a differently abled character in pursuit of riches sounds potentially twee, and the plot risks making fun of its protagonist. But The Rainbow Kid does not stumble into either of these pitfalls. Instead, it grows progressively darker as Eugene pushes forward in his quest, aided (or at least sustained) by an encyclopedic knowledge of all things rainbowed, except for the fact that they don’t actually have golden termini.
The end of his own arc feels natural, deserved and absolutely not condescending.”
Judges at the Speechless Film Festival had this to say about the film:
“I was engaged and invested from the first frame. Dylan Harman gave a beautiful performance in the lead role of Eugene. The director and actors approached this potentially tricky take on the standard coming of age story with finesse and care. Though gritty at times, it’s touching and poignant.” ~Jill Fischer
“This is a wonderful, clever film on many levels. Not only is it beautiful to watch, but the immense connection you feel with the main character is rare and powerful. The story is also subtle enough that it has a lot of impact throughout and culminates into a crystal clear critique of man’s ambition and its folly.” ~Amanda Hauman
Critics have lauded the choice the cast Dylan Harman, an actor with Down Syndrome, as the main character in the film.
The writer, director, and producer of the film, Kire Paputts, made a short film called The Rainbow Connection before the feature film, also starring Dylan Harman.
The film was first shown in the Discovery section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
The film’s soundtrack was written and performed by Christine Bougie, an internationally acclaimed guitar and lap steel guitar player. She has played on over 75 albums for artists including Bahamas, Amy Millan, and Gretchen Peters.
The Rainbow Kid is noted be some critics for having a female cinematographer: Maya Bankovic.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 children born in the United States has Down Syndrome.
The Symbolism of Rainbows
Rainbows are created when sun shines through water droplets. The prism of the water causes the light to be reflected as a brilliant array of colors in the sky. They are used as a symbol of hope in many cultures.
In Christianity, rainbows symbolize hope and better times to come. Buddhists believe that rainbows represent the highest form of spiritual enlightenment you can reach before achieving Nirvana. Greeks and Romans believed they were created by the messenger god as he flew through the sky. In Norse mythologies, rainbows were believed to be a bridge between heaven and Earth.
In Hindu legends, rainbows are the bow used to shoot arrows by the god of thunder and war. Pre-Islamic Arabic cultures also saw the rainbow as a bow, and the Chinese believed it was a crack in the sky caused by God throwing rocks. In Mayan, Cherokee, and Armenian culture, rainbows symbolized crowns, belts, and other clothing worn by the gods.
In Irish culture, it is believed that leprechauns hide their pilfered gold at the end of the rainbow. This can be seen as a symbol of hope; after all, if you find the pot of gold, you’ll find riches beyond imagining. However, in reality rainbows can only be seen from afar. As you move closer to them, they appear to move away from you. This means that it would actually be impossible to ever find the end of a rainbow.
This conundrum is exacerbated by the fact that although rainbows appear to be arcs, they are actually full circles in which the bottom half is obscured by the horizon. This means that in reality, the end of the rainbow doesn’t even exist.
Eugene: We have to get outta here!
Eugene: Because what you father is doing to you is wrong.
Elvis Grimes: There is no rainbow, it’s an optical illusion! The sunlight shines through the raindrops and the colors get all fucked-up or somethin’, I don’t know… don’t they teach you this stuff in school anymore?
Elvis Grimes: You’d better call your mother and tell her that you’re doing just fine.
Eugene: I… don’t think so…
Elvis Grimes: Yeah well, I didn’t ASK.
Ray: Ooh, Jell-O!
Derek: It’s mine…
Ray: Yeah well, I’m gonna fuckin’ take it anyway…
[reaches for the cup of Jell-O]
Eugene: FUCK OFF.
The Rainbow Kid is a harrowing tale of a young man coming to terms with the stark realities of life as he strives to be the hero and save the day for his terminally ill mother. He encounters a strange variety of characters as he encounters new situations and struggles. His difficult experiences give him new abilities and perspectives but take away much of his innocent optimism. Viewers will root for Eugene as he meets his struggles head on, and will be heartbroken by the pain that he suffers while in search of his pot of gold.