American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
“I have spent more than half of my adult life in prison,” says Darius McCollum. Films have taught us what to think of people who say that. But unless you already know his name—and if you live in New York there’s a good chance you do—then whatever assumptions you are making about McCollum are probably wrong.
The charismatic man at the center of Adam Irving’s new documentary has been jailed 32 times for working for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The problem is that they don’t employ him. He repeatedly steals buses and subway trains, and drives them safely to where they need to go.
McCollum has Asperger’s syndrome and, like many people on the autism spectrum, he has an obsessive passion that consumes much of his life. For some it’s drawing, for others it’s a TV show. For McCollum it’s trains. “Ever since I was 15 years old I’ve been running towards the subway system,” he says.
Actually, it’s longer than that. He’s been running to the subway since he was a small boy. It was just at age 15 that he was first arrested. At school, happy and broad-smiling but also nerdy and awkward, he was badly bullied and, one day, while he sat arranging a jigsaw puzzle, another pupil stabbed him, almost fatally, with scissors. After he left hospital little Darius became afraid of school and began to ride the subway all day.