|De gek op de heuvel (The Fool on the Hill)
Thomas Vercammen is a main character in the Belgian drama movie De gek op de heuvel (The Fool on the Hill).
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Koen Vermeiren. It had previously been adapted into a theater piece as well.
It received €12,500 in scenario support and €175,000 in production support from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF). It had a total budget of €375,000. It was part of the Fait divers project, a co-operation between VAF and the commercial channel VTM.
When Thomas' parents get divorced, living together with his mom Sofie and her boyfriend Erik does not go as planned. Erik struggles with Thomas' brutal honesty, stubbornness and at times bizarre behavior. Thomas is not coping well with these tumultuous times, and his special education school suggests he also attends their boarding program, since that'll allow them to better help him. The divorce proceedings are still going on and the judicial system is trying to decide who will get custody of Thomas. His dad ends up getting custody, devastating Sofie, though Erik does not particularly mind. He has to get rid of his dog since Thomas doesn't know how to interact properly with the animal, causing it to lash out and bite him.
As Sofie tries to appeal the custody ruling, tensions rise in the household. After Thomas acts out at a birthday party, Erik punishes him by putting one of Sofie's art books in front of him, knowing Thomas loves browsing them although Sofie forbids this. When she gets home, she sees Thomas with the art book and lashes out at him, slapping him in the face. She's shocked by her own behaviour, which causes Erik to confess he had actually given Thomas the book. Meanwhile, Thomas is still recovering in his room, cutting himself with a thumb tack.
A new investigation to decide who gets custody is opened, but things haven't improved since the last hearing: Sofie still doesn't have a job, and Erik has been fired from his job but lies about this. When custody remains with Thomas' dad, Sofie blames Erik for lying about losing his job and sends him away. Erik seeks refuge with a fellow teacher whom he had been getting friendly with over the past few months.
After watching a performance at a school party where Thomas sings "Ik Hou Van U" ("I Love You") by Noordkaap, Erik and Sofie reconcile. A time skip shows them celebrating at a sunny garden party; Erik has attained his doctorate, his dog is back with them—when Thomas suddenly shows up at their doorstep. His dad's new girlfriend can't cope with Thomas, so his dad proposes Thomas goes back to live with Sofie. Erik happily accepts this. He lets Thomas joins him for a run, which he had previously always done alone to have a break from Thomas. Thomas wins and is surprised that Erik doesn't get mad at him.
The movie ends with Erik and Sofie lovingly watching over Thomas while he's at his favourite tree in the backyard.
He is stated to be autistic multiple times during the movie. Thomas often makes makes mistakes with conjugating verbs and odd word constructions. When wondering what's wrong with him, he asks his mother "So I'll always stay a stupid autentistic? That's not fair!" He also refers to himself as "mentaal gehandicapperd" ("mentally retardered").
The movie was called "the Flemish Rain Man" by some, due to some similarities in their storyline: De gek op de heuvel has a stepfather learning to interact with his autistic stepson, where Rain Man has a man learning to interact with his estranged autistic brother.