I need to talk about Kevin
Ten years ago, when I was just a fresh-faced lad of 27, I was approached in my duties as Names and Faces Editor by a boy who wanted to write movie reviews. I thought it was a great idea. It would be something cute for the readers and a badge of honor for this little guy who had dreams of becoming a movie critic. I didn’t expect that Kevin Thomas would harbor those dreams for very long. I suppose I thought that like most kids in elementary school, Kevin would change his mind on “what he wanted to be when he grew up.” He has not changed his mind and I’m glad because not only has he improved as a writer but our relationship has developed over the years too. What started out as something small, some token space in the paper every now and then and free movie passes when we used to get them, grew into a mentorship and friendship that neither of us likely ever imagined.
Kevin has written over 100 reviews for us since he turned in that first one (see his 101st? on this site). He started out as a kid critic focusing on kid movies but has grown into a critic of all films. He did check out “Madagascar 3,” but he has informed me he isn’t too interested in kid movies anymore. If we were doing film reviews more regularly I would totally play the seniority card and force him to attend all of the Squeakels to the “Alvin and the Chipmunk” movies that Hollywood comes up with. Not out of malice, but because I can’t stand the irritating voices in those movies.
Kevin has Asperger’s Syndrome, or, more specifically, non-verbal learning disorder. People with Asperger’s have been known to focus on certain things (i.e. baseball players, planes, etc.) and learn everything they can about that one subject. Kevin is fascinated with movies and he also enjoys writing. His mom, Peggy, told me that Kevin has been writing reviews of the movies he watched from a very young age.
“We had a rule that if he wanted to watch something, he had to write about it,” Peggy said, recalling with Kevin that his first review for the family was about “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet: The Movie.”
“It was really bad,” Kevin said. “It had some of the worst animation I had ever seen.”
I don’t want to focus too much on Kevin’s Asperger’s because we honestly never do. His work at the paper came about because of his passion for movies and his work ethic. It was not given to him for any reason other than the fact that he wanted to do it and continues to work hard to improve with every review.
What started to happen once Kevin entered high school is that we began to communicate more outside of just the occasional e-mail message attached to his reviews. We talk on the phone or Facebook chat and have also gone to a few movies together and the topics we talk about before and after the film range from movies and music to girls. Instead of just being the guy who edits his reviews and puts them on the page, it was almost like I was a big brother. I’m not just a co-worker, I’m a friend.
Kevin and I have dabbled with putting together a book. I put together a list of films he should watch and we both tried to write about them. I would write an essay on why I felt like each film was important for him to see and he would write a review. The book is unfinished at this point but I’m sure we’ll find what’s missing and tackle it soon. We just added another dozen films for him to check out this summer. My goal is to finish the book before he graduates high school. The clock is ticking.
It has been a pleasure watching Kevin grow as a writer, a person and a friend. In his recent review, he thanks me for the opportunity at the paper but I need to thank him for introducing me to the idea of being a mentor. It was something I never sought out but I’ve enjoyed offering my advice on writing and everything else.
I am also calling dibs on writing the review for “The Dark Night Rises.”