There’s nothing on Mick Jackson’s CV that seems to lead to this knockout HBO bio-pic on Temple Grandin, a young woman who didn’t so much triumph over her autism as thru it. A leading specialist in livestock handling (don’t get sentimental, she made her mark building a better abattoir), her equally remarkable mother ‘mainstreamed’ her thru high school, university & the employment sector. Building on a stubborn persistence, Grandin corralled her unique abilities at visualization into ‘Moo Science,’ thinking & feeling as a cow. You can pick at the script for telegraphing story points & goals, but cleanly handled time-shifting construction help it maintain a lively pace and freshen up a pretty well-worn story arc; while any small faults are more than compensated for by the emotional completeness of Temple’s phenomenal journey. (The film is much closer to the truth than these things usually are.) The performances couldn’t be better, bouquets to all: the cowboys, good & bad; to Mom & Aunt Ann (Julia Ormond & Catherine O’Hara); to David Strathairn’s teacher-of-the-year; and especially to Claire Danes whose Temple must be the best assumption of this sort of role since Daniel Day Lewis began to write with MY LEFT FOOT/’89. Anyone who can watch this touch-averse freshman let her new blind roommate hold her arm for guidance, or start singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in a key too high and not tear up may now leave the room.
DOUBLE-BILL: Included as an EXTRA on the Criterion DVD of Georges Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE/'59 is his extraordinarily graceful, deadly grim short-subject on a horse slaughterhouse in Paris, LE SANG DES BÊTES/’49 (BLOOD OF THE BEASTS). As mesmerizing as it is unwatchable, it certainly shows you what Ms Grandin was out to change. WARNING!: The Franju short is definitely not Family Friendly material. (Speaking of EXTRAs, watch the one on here to see the real Temple.)
READ ALL ABOUT IT: In addition to her own books, there’s a fine portrait of Temple Grandin by Oliver Sacks in his 1995 collection AN ANTHROPOLOGIST ON MARS.