At the Tribeca Film Festival, and at film festivals in general, there is never a real shortage of New York-set stories, or New York romances—and while Rachel Israel’s feature debut Keep the Change falls in both of those categories, it’s unlike any other romantic comedy you’ll see this year.
Based on Israel’s acclaimed 2013 short film of the same name—from Israel’s time as a Columbia MFA student—the feature “set up here, in Upper West Side Manhattan) tells the story of a burgeoning romance between two New Yorkers, who meet at a community for adults on the autism spectrum.
“The idea for the film started through my relationship with Brandon, and I had observed this romantic relationship flower, and how it positively impacted his life, and it really moved me as a love story, in a universal way,” Israel told Deadline. “And then I started thinking, and kind of stepping back, and thinking that I also hadn’t seen many films, or any that I can think of, that starred cast on the spectrum—or even just characters on the spectrum, not to mention a cast.”
While diversity remains a hot-button topic in Hollywood, there remain many communities who are poorly served in the industry, through representation on screen, and the community of individuals on the autism spectrum is certainly one of those, making Israel’s film timely and important, in addition to genuinely charming.
Beyond stars Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofon—who also starred in the 2013 short—Israel’s film is filled with a community of adults on the autism spectrum, who the filmmaker met while preparing her short film. “Through researching the short film, I had gotten to know a lot of wonderful people at this community where Brandon met his girlfriend at the time, and really fell in love with them, the vibrancy of their characters, and decided to focus the story all within this one world of that community,” she shares. “I thought that would make the story more universal.”
Sitting down at Deadline’s Tribeca Studio opposite their director, Polansky and Elisofon couldn’t be more complimentary of their director, or more excited by the experience, on the whole. “It was great—just great. It was just so easy breezy working with Samantha, and Rachel was just a wonderful director. Seriously—she’s like a genius, Rachel,” Polansky remarked.
“It was a wonderful learning experience,” Elisofon added. “Getting to have all this exposure, doing all this mix and match business on this improv on a professional set, working all these busy bee hours, and [being] able to appreciate the beauty in performing it, which was so beautifully directed, making things super-duper easy-peasy as possible.”
To view Deadline’s conversation with the film’s stars and director Rachel Israel for yourself, click above. Upcoming showtimes for the film—which premiered Thursday—can be found here.