Some Blathering About Temple Grandin

I'd heard that the biopic Temple Grandin currently running on HBO was good but I'm not usually a fan of biographies so I didn't pay much attention. Not that there's anything wrong with biographies, they're just not my cup of tea. But then one of the authors I really like had some good things to say about the film and it did well in the Emmys so I gave it a try. I was sobbing in the first ten minutes and at one point had a lump in my throat so large I thought I would choke to death. Don't get me wrong, the film isn't tragic; it’s just terribly moving and made me ridiculously proud of Ms. Grandin.

Claire Danes plays the title role and is nearly unrecognizable. There is not a bit of the glamour of previous characters like the star in Stardust in her Temple character, who has wildly curling hair, bursts with energy and whose struggle to understand "normal" people is written all over her lively face.

According to the film, Ms. Grandin was diagnosed at the age of four with autism, which at that time was also called infantile schizophrenia, a pretty scary diagnosis. Ms. Grandin's mother is told to institutionalize the child and that the illness is her fault for being "cold" and not connecting with her daughter at a crucial time. The doctor has a terrible bedside manner and is extremely sexist, telling Mrs. Grandin that she won't be able to understand the diagnosis and her husband should call. It's bad enough to get terrible advice from the doctor but to be treated like an idiot and the cause of her child's serious medical condition is reprehensible.

Mrs. Grandin works incredibly hard with her daughter, a difficult task as her child rejects her touch and won't look her in her face. One of the interesting things about this film is how we intercut with images of how Temple sees the world, which is visually, with some math thrown in. She analyses everything she sees, from the way a gate works to the movement of cattle (which will end up being a large part of her life's work.) In one of the scenes where her mother desperately tries to teach her to speak Temple stares up at an intricate glass chandelier and we are left to imagine that she is lost in its angles.

When I was a girl I was told I would be blind by Christmas, which struck me as quite the holiday gift. I went through an experimental treatment, which I guess worked, since I have terrible vision but can still see. Anyway, I read a lot of books about blind people and got a big crush on Helen Keller, who seemed like the most amazing person in the world to me. It also seemed to be that Ms. Keller was, well I don't know if lucky is the right word, but her life would certainly have been vastly different if she hadn't been graced with the presence of her life companion, Anne Sullivan.

In much the same way Ms. Grandin vastly benefited by the love, guidance and daring of three important people. Her mother, her aunt and her science teacher were all able to look past Ms. Grandin's disability, see her and help her find ways to cope. Her Aunt Anne seemed particularly brave to me, doing something that appeared to go against her natural instincts, something that could have gotten her in trouble with child protective services, but actually not only helped Ms. Grandin but also many other children with autism. This scene takes place near the beginning of the movie and is quite moving. Catherine O'Hara is incredible as Aunt Anne, turning in a masterful and subtle performance.

I loved everything about this film; the acting, the cinematography, the writing, etc. I was surprised by how quickly it went by, especially since these types of films don't usually interest me. Temple Grandin is currently running on HBO.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Size Six and is super short, saying, "That yogurt that says it tastes like red velvet cake does not." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at