The film Temple Grandin asks the narrow minded to question why they don’t want to understand autism the way it should be viewed. Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin an autistic teenager who can’t fit at school, refuses to be hugged and only eats jello. The film begins at Arizona in 1966. Temple stays with her Aunt Ann’s (O’ Hara) farm during the school break falling in love with the cows. Her autistic abilities give her the advantage of thinking visually and the camera flashes with quick shots and images to represent Grandin’s mind. The camera techniques are similiar to those in A Beautiful Mind even though that film tackles a different issue. This HBO made for TV film is heart warming and deserves greater respect than “just another TV movie.”
It shines in a number of areas because we are not an outsider, the screenplay focus us to view the world from Temple’s eyes. We also see the frustration of her mother here played by Ormond who is at odds ends because she wants the best for Grandin but Temple wants anything but her animal handling plans to come to light.
“Your child is an autistic, an infantile schizophrenic.” A doctor explains to Temple’s mother. What exactly is that and how can you tell?
- delayed speech development (for example, speaking less than 50 different words by the age of two), or not speaking at all
- frequent repetition of set words and phrases
- rejecting cuddles initiated by a parent or carer (although they may initiate cuddles themselves)
- reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else
- not enjoying situations that most children of their age like, such as birthday parties
- preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to this routine
- having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour of the food as much as the taste
The film follows the story arc of Temple having to fight her way through small battle after small battle. The film shows her she becomes fascinated with science, animal husbandry and her strong desire for animal safety. We see her deal with school rejection, stereotypes from adult peer groups, confronting people for her own causes and battling her own autism. Danes is completely believable in this moving drama and her acting holds well against Ormond, O’Hara and Strathairn.
The film is so unique because it does not paint a caricature of autism the way most media represent the autistic. When autistic groups enter the library to take out books and speak to librarians, there will be mothers who hold their own kids a little tighter. Why? People suffering from autistism are just as engaged as anyone else. They’re no different from anyone of us and that is what this film preaches. Respect the sufferers because they can walk out of college with Masters, undergraduate degrees and change things for modern society.
Claire Danes as Temple Grandin
Catherine O’ Hara as Aunt Ann
Julia Ormond as Eustacia
David Strathairn as Dr. Carlock
This film concludes the one week look at films that deal with mental health or psychiatric illness. Leave your comments below on what films, genres or themes you would like film theory applied to for your reading.