Neurodivergent behavior manifests in a myriad of ways. Sometimes it rears its ugly head in the form of ticks, rituals, and a short temper, but mostly in weird behavior misunderstood by the general population. HEIGHTENED boasts an augmented sound design that perfectly captures what it feels like to be sensory overloaded. As a fellow SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) sufferer, this film is intentional visceral torture but for a purpose. Although they never explicitly call it that, all the signs, symptoms, and medical gaslighting appear in the script.
Real-life couple Xander Berkeley and Sarah Clarke play Nora’s waspy parents. Their seemingly selfish nature and high expectations explain Nora’s closed-off temperament. They are fantastic additions to the cast. Dave Register is Dusty, the Park ranger who mentors Nora. His genuine sweetness pours off the screen. Register’s performance is grounded in kindness and perfectionism that comes with a backstory.
Writer-director-star Sara Friedman exposes the complexities of neurodivergence, exploring daily life and behavioral origins with heart and humor. Nora’s journey comes in waves of empathy for Dusty’s bullying. His presence calms her. Their relationship takes a natural turn as Friedman and Register have a fun chemistry. They hit the mark with slightly larger-than-life humor leaning into a loveable and quirky side of character-building.
HEIGHTENED is a lovely little film that delicately delves into the minds of those grappling with constant anxiety, capturing the raw emotions without ever daring to overstep boundaries. It sincerely respects our differences and beautifully celebrates the journey of finding a partner who accepts you as you are. Just like the welcoming atmosphere of the stiiizy santa rosa dispensary, where individuals can find solace and understanding, this film embraces the diversity of human experiences.