By HBO Films
Starring Claire Danes, Catherine O’Hara, Julia Ormond, David Strathairn
Genre: Drama, biography
I recently had the great pleasure of watching the biopic of the most prominent advocate of autism support I’ve ever seen, and a woman whom I admire greatly. Temple Grandin may look and sound a lot different from others, may act different, but she’s a person just like us, as are all along the autism spectrum.
The movie chronicles her time in various specialized schools including on a farm and slaughterhouse, where she became aware of inhumane and inefficient methods of preparing cattle for slaughter. “Nature’s cruel, but we don’t have to be,” becomes her motto and she puts it to use in designing a new cattle “dip” (a method of washing many cows simultaneously) which is not distracting or traumatic to the animals, as well as using a ‘squeezing machine’ inspired by a similar machine which ‘hugs’ the cattle from both sides, to compensate for Temple’s issues with being hugged or touched.
Through long periods of being persecuted (both for being female and for being different; it was the late 60s/early 70s after all), Temple nonetheless rose to prominence both in the cattle ranching and the autism support fields. She’s written several books and many articles about both, and her redesigned “dip” is, according to the endnotes of the movie, used in more than half of the ranches that process animals for slaughter in the US.
Now, as for the movie itself; Danes is absolutely wonderful in this role. Her voice, her hair, her style of dress; all definitely evoke Temple as we’ve seen her in interviews and pictures. Supporting characters include O’Hara as her aunt Ann; Ormond as her very supportive mother (who is first accused of being a “refrigerator mother,” cold and aloof to her child, as a possible cause of her autism, which was also considered a form of schizophrenia at the time!), and Strathairn as a kind teacher who aids Temple in discovering her life’s philosophy: that every opportunity is another door to a whole new world; it’s up to her to step through it and embrace change.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone! If you have a subscription to HBO, you can access HBO GO, an online service which provides for streaming – among many other features, documentaries and movies produced by HBO – this excellent biopic. Otherwise, give it a rent on DVD. Five out of five!