Now released on iTunes, Hulu and Amazon,”The Odd Way Home” THE ODD WAY HOME” features Chris Marquette starring alongside Rumer Willis who together star as the oddest pair taking an unforgettable journey through the American Southwest. The film premiered at the Austin Film Festival, won “Audience Choice for Best Picture” at the Albuquerque Film Festival and has been widely embraced by filmgoers and the autism advocacy community.
Review Fix: Why is this film important?
Rajeev Nirmalakhandan: The Odd Way Home is an entertaining film, a journey of two flawed and fascinating characters who take an adventurous journey, but what truly makes the film important is how the relationship in the film touches audiences. The film touches on several aspects of our society concerning individuals who may be marginalized or stereotyped. Maya is a broken woman, scarred by the clutches of addiction and the domestic violence. Duncan has autism. The two are alone in the world, but coming together, they form an unlikely bond that takes them to new heights. Audiences are moved by their relationship of total acceptance of each other. During a time when division and stereotypes prevail in our society, The Odd Way Home tells a poignant story of how such walls can be overcome and perceptions can at first be deceiving. It shows that two strangers from different worlds can come together to redefine the notion of family.
Review Fix: What was the set like? How did everybody get along?
Nirmalakhandan: The set was wonderful, almost like summer camp. Many of the locations were remote so our crew was out there and had no one else but each other. It was also in the depths of summer in New Mexico so we all bonded over blazing temperatures and sweat. Many of the crew members were from New Mexico and from members of the local film community consisting of recent graduates of the Creative Media Institute. They were excited to be a part of the film. For us it was not just a job but instead a wonderful opportunity to work together to give life to a truly special story.
Review Fix: What was it like to work with Rumer Willis?
Nirmalakhandan: Rumer was great to work with. Although she came to the rugged backdrop of New Mexico from the world of Hollywood, she never once had a problem of blending in and getting her hands dirty. She immediately became part of the Odd Way family. She worked hard, withstood the heat, the bugs and all the natural elements that attacked us during our mission to make the film. She gave an incredible performance, giving Maya multifaceted traits. I was overjoyed to see her give such a gritty and colorful life to the character of Maya.
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy it the most?
Nirmalakhandan: I have screened the film at film festivals across the country and I have been so touched by the gamut of audiences who embrace the film. I have had people of all races and ages love the film. I have had family members of autistic individuals thank me for making the film with tears in their eyes. I have had younger adults love it for the whimsical moments of the friendship between Maya and Duncan. I have seen older audiences connect with the notion of overcoming strife and finding one’s own purpose. Those who have never interacted with someone who has autism are moved and inspired by how Duncan sees the world. And others just love a fun road trip movie.
Review Fix: What films have inspired you over the years? How do you think they’ve influenced this one?
Nirmalakhandan: Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite films of all time. What really speaks to me about the film is the ability to find hope in the harshest of adversities and overcome the greatest struggles to come out victoriously in the end. This message is very much also a beacon in my own life. I have struggled with health issues and medical head-scratchers all my life. I have faced odds that may catalogue my possible autobiography as fiction. Yet, I have never let the obstacles in my life derail me from my course. The conviction to keep moving forward is something I promise myself never to loose and something I hope to inspire in others. So much of the inspiration for the trials of Maya and the path Duncan must take were inspired by my own journey.
Review Fix: How do you want this film to be remembered?
Nirmalakhandan: I want the film to be remembered as the story of two individuals who resonate a spirit that could easily have been ignored in our own real lives. A woman succumbed to violence and addiction and a man isolated by his autism could easily be forgotten or sidelined. Yet, when given the chance, the two bloom and shine magnanimously. I want The Odd Way Home to show us that no matter who we are or where we are, we can make a significant impact in the lives of others and that looking past a perception to the true individual could lead to a life-changing discovery.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Nirmalakhandan: I love telling stories that touch audiences and leave a smile on their face. I want to create characters and moments that will stay with them long past the work has ended, whether is a feature film, documentary or even a commercial. I am currently working on a few feature story ideas and scripts. I also am getting back into doing commercials because they are just so much fun to do. I am also looking into ways that I can use my life experiences to inspire others.