Michelle Smith is not a normal woman, and she will be the first and most proud to tell you so. Yes, she is legally blind and has Asperger’s syndrome, but as far as she’s concerned those are just a part of who she is. Best And Most Beautiful Things is the documentary story of her experience in unlearning what it means to be normal, and it examines exactly how society treats those with disabilities or even those who just don’t fit into the mold of what society deems acceptable as a hobby or an interest.
Best And Most Beautiful Things basically functions as a journalistic human interest story, covering a couple years of a 20-something young woman’s life as she struggles to find her independence in a world that does not accommodate her. She lives at home with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, and her obsessive interests include Daria, anime, and Monster High dolls. More than that, though, she is a bright, passionate young woman who dreams of becoming a voice actress, and more than anything wants to be treated as a capable adult in a world that views her disabilities as a reason to treat her as a child.
Director Garrett Zevgetis does a fantastic job of introducing us to Michelle’s perspective, often placing the world in blurry focus and amplifying ambient noise to give us an approximation of what the world seems like to an autistic blind person. This is accompanied by Michelle’s soul-bearing testimonials about how able-bodied folks don’t understand and are therefore less accommodating than she needs, which has cost her jobs and has left her dependent on her family.
Michelle then discovers an affirming and empowering community in the fetish social networking site FetLife, and her independence begins to assert itself in ways her family is not prepared for. It’s a heart-wrenching culture clash from parents who want to hold on to their offspring’s childhood and have their belief reinforced by a perceived childishness in their daughter’s hobbies and obsessions. However, as a grown woman capable of sexual consent, Michelle proves herself more grown than most people would have thought possible for her.
And that, ultimately, is the point of Best And Most Beautiful Things: People who don’t fall into the parameters of what society deems “normal” are often infantilized and looked down upon, as if their interests are somehow inferior because they are less popular or as if their disabilities make them somehow less worthy of support or mutual respect. This could have been a film that gawked at the intersectionality of Michelle’s various identities and made her into a sideshow attraction, but thankfully it does precisely the opposite. Michelle may be different, but she is no less normal than the rest of us. Because being normal is bullshit.