Guarding Eddy (2004) is a sport-based drama starring Kiko Ellsworth as Mike Jeffreys, a volunteer at a Los Angeles homeless shelter where he meets Brian Presley’s character Eddy Patterson, an autistic 18 year old who has run away to L.A. because his parents don’t want the responsibility of caring for him. Eddy has his heart set on playing professional basketball for the Clippers.
Inspired by the true story of Eddy Patterson the movie explores the growing friendship between Mike and Eddy. Mike was an NBA hopeful until a knee injury put paid to his dream, and then found himself doing volunteer work at a homeless shelter as mandatory community service. Eddy, starving and with nowhere to go wanders in to the shelter one day and is matched with Mike in the Big Brother program. While Mike’s initial involvement with Eddy is as his ‘Big Brother’ the two get to know each other and become firm friends.
As with similar stories there are lessons to be learned for both of the main characters and viewers will find the messages very relatable to their own lives and experiences. Mike begins by teaching Eddy a life lesson about believing in himself and not listening to the negativity of others. This comes about after Eddy reveals the hurt his father inflicted upon him by making him believe that he was worthless, and the twofold reason for Eddy’s presence in Los Angeles is also revealed as Eddy tells of how his parents didn’t want to continue to be responsible for him and pushed him out into the world to fend for himself. But that reason explains why Eddy is alone but what is even more significant is Eddy’s dream of playing for the Clippers is so he can ‘be somebody’ and prove that he is not the worthless person his father believes him to be.
Mike’s lesson, taught by Eddy, is to never let go of your dreams. Despite a knee injury and Mike’s obvious anger and disappointment at having his NBA hopes dashed, Eddy shows Mike that he has plenty to be grateful for, and though one part of his life may be over there are plenty of other things Mike can do that are worthwhile. Throughout the movie Eddy holds strong to his belief that he will eventually play with the Clippers and that nothing can stop him, even his autism challenges. While on occasion Mike gets frustrated with Eddy and his dream, he comes to realize that Eddy is a very bright young man with guts, determination and an unwavering belief in his dream. Viewers watching see Mike become aware that achieving your dreams sometimes can win out against all the odds.
For viewers seeking a ‘feel good’ movie with a strong positive message Guarding Eddy is a great choice. Though it isn’t without some profanity (scene with Eddy’s father) it is for the most part a story that older children could enjoy. The strong sports theme should attract basketball fans, and may be a good choice for young people who are dealing with autism. Some people confuse autism with a lack of intelligence and this is a misunderstanding of autism that is shown very clearly to not be the case through Brian Presley’s touching performance as Eddy.
In 2004, at the Boston International Film Festival, Kiko won Best Acting Performance for his role as Mike in the movie, Guarding Eddy. At the same event Brian Presley won Best Narrative Feature in his role as producer. As Scott McKinsey’s directing debut this movie is a great start to what could be a very promising directing career.