Temple Grandin (2010)
Reviewed on 2010 February 8
Amazing HBO original movie, about both the woman who refused to let her autism keep her from going through doors or changing the way we tend livestock, and the family who fought alongside her.
The movie starts out with Grandin (Claire Danes) introducing herself to us, and explaining she sees things differently than most people. Does she ever. We cut to a scene of her arriving on her aunt’s (Catherine O’Hara’s) ranch and her mind is already calculating the arc of the gate to their property. Temple is autistic. She is also brilliant, and is quick to notice things like the different pitches of lowing cattle and how the holding pen calms the animal down. She takes this idea and builds a compression machine for humans, something that gives a mechanical hug to autistics who need it but can’t bear the thought of a hug from another human being. Life was always hard for Temple, but between her family and Professor Carlock (David Strathairn), the first professor to recognize her gift for visualizing things, she made it through boarding school, college, and far beyond.
I’ve seen a lot of TV and cable movies, and many are underwhelming. Some are entertaining and a few are very good. This is the first one that made me tear up. I thought Claire Danes did an incredible job portraying Grandin, in both her struggles and her triumphs. The script did a brilliant job of portraying the way Grandin sees the world. The bit where we see her French class notes did it for me. Julia Ormond and Catherine O’Hara were also respectively wonderful as her stubborn, loving mother and kind but tough aunt. Ormond’s quiet fury standing up to a bonehead doctor who wants to institutionalize Temple before the poor kid’s fifth birthday is some of the best “mama bear” I’ve ever seen, and then she tops it in the next scene, when she tries working with Temple on her own.
Four chocolate morsels.