In documentarian Julie Sokolow’s suprisingly moving Aspie Seeks Love, we meet a geeky guy named David Matthews, and we can immediately tell that he has really bad social skills. He’s initially off-putting – he has a robotic speaking voice, he’s bringing up the wrong conversational subjects and any woman he meets can safely be predicted to run, run, run away. Then we learn that David (now age 47) was diagnosed with Asberger’s at 41. (Aspie is a self-descriptive term used by some folks with Asperger’s syndrome.)

David is determined to overcome his Asberger’s and find love. We follow David with his support group, his therapist and even along on some dates. We’re with him when he’s hanging around a pool table with three Aspie buddies; they’re talking about how difficult it is to navigate courtship rituals when you don’t have the ability to pick up cues – for example, whether a woman is ENCOURAGING or DISCOURAGING an escalation in physical contact. I really felt for these guys – non-verbal communication while dating can be hard enough to decipher without the handicap of an autism spectrum disorder. It’s heartbreaking that David spent 41 years (before his diagnosis) with people thinking that he was just a weirdo.

Small talk is a challenge, too. David says, “I’m a vegan”, which draws some interest. But he doesn’t understand why you shouldn’t follow that up with “It makes my body smell clean”.

Despite his disorder, David is really smart, artistic, and enjoys an ever present sarcastic sense of humor. I’m no softy, but I found myself really rooting for this guy. Okay – so he’s socially awkward, but he’s employed and stable, lives in his own house, is about to become a published author, is impeccably clean, doesn’t smoke drink or do drugs, has no criminal record – he must be right for SOME WOMAN out there. I live in Silicon Valley among engineers and David really isn’t THAT socially inept by comparison.

Possibly because David doesn’t really GET awkwardness, writer-director Julie Sokolow is able to follow him into situations that normal folks might find intrusive. Sokolow also edits, and the editing choices are just about perfect. Aspie Seeks Love is a gem.

Cinequest hosts the world premiere of Aspie Seeks Love on February 27, and it plays again on March 1 and March 4, all at Camera 12.

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