Temple Grandin, based on the book Emergence by…Temple Grandin
Somehow, watching this golden Globe Winner, which was also awarded multiple Emmys, can be both rewarding, meaningful and yet painful and awkward, all at the same time, given that the heroine is a woman that has so many Signature Strengths, but it feels strange to see her in “action”.
Temple Grandin is portrayed by Claire Danes, who has won the golden Globe for this spectacular performance and the Emmy in same category, of Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, and it must be very difficult to become someone who is special and different, when you are a “regular” movie star.
There have been plenty of sarcastic jokes on the issue of roles about people with special needs- from Rainman to My Left Foot, The Theory of Everything and then Temple Grandin- and the penchant that panels have to reward actors and actresses that take the effort to walk out into a different world.
The protagonist of this film is autistic and the fiction is based on the real woman- present in fact at the awards, where Claire Danes thanked her and had the real wife super woman stand up- that has faced all sorts of challenges and then walked through the door, the latter image is used in difficult circumstances by the heroine.
Temple Grandin – and more generally, people who suffer from autism- has trouble in her relationship with other people, she avoids as much as she can touch and is justified in her apparent, misjudged misanthropy because so many of her colleagues in school laugh at her.
Images are of great help and her notebooks with drawings are used in various moments to demonstrate that she is beyond understanding what is discussed and taught in school; in fact, she would become an inventor of the highest caliber, her contributions bringing so much solace to poor animals, where her improvements are adopted and used.
While she was still a child, the mother of the protagonist, Eustacia played by the wonderful Julia Ormond, also nominated for a Golden Globe and winner of an Emmy for her excellent acting, takes the girl to a specialist who makes a grave mistake in his diagnosis, saying that the child should be committed to an institution and that there is no solution for her condition and that she will always be unable to read, make sense of the world…
This is where Eustacia becomes the other hero and Super Woman – Wonder Woman is the trend today- of this motion picture, as she dedicates her time to teaching a distracted, but evidently not beyond understanding child, the intelligence of the future scientist is actually way above average.
It takes time, because there are and there will always be subjects in which Temple Grandin is not interested- she loves science, but the wordy French or other foreign languages do not appeal to the woman who sees so much in a complex, different manner in another world.
Nevertheless, there is a scene which is relevant and amusing, that takes place in the French class, where Temple shows she is not fascinated by the subject and the angry teacher wants her to be attentive and she awes him and the class as she recites impeccably all that there is in the lesson of the day, making the man ask if she had learned it by heart and then she explains that she has a photographic memory- she saw it and now she knows it.
However, the greatness of this role model appears in a different setting, at the farms where they grow cattle and where the observant, creative, open minded, intelligent, brave, kind, humble, intrepid, resilient, persistent woman brings her huge contribution to animal welfare.
And it is not easy, for her effort to have a thesis on the animal sounds, their agitation as they approach and are mishandled in the area of the wash basins that are used to get bacteria and other undesirables away is rejected and she is mocked by macho men working at the farm.
Temple Grandin has observed the behavior of cattle and the fact that they do not like the clothes hanging in the enclosures where they are forced to walk; they prefer to move in circles and other details which she wants to use in farms and abattoirs, where her innovations would make the end easier for these poor beats.
She gets some support, but not enough in the first stages, when her new design is put in place, cowboys are eager to dismantle pieces, because they claim it would take too long, they hand their shirts where the cows can see them and the result is that a few are drowned and they blame the inventor, when in fact it was their stupidity and the changes they made to the design.
In other instances, the farm hands are so hostile as to try hard to make her abandon her work and research, putting residue, testicles, intestines and other gory remains on the windshield of the old jalopy that the heroine is using in order to get admittance.
When she was refused at the gate, trying to get into the farm in her Volkswagen Beetle, Temple Grandin went to a used car lot, traded her better looking vehicle for an old pickup truck, on which she threw dirt and mud to make it look like the cars the other farmers used and she even went herself with clothes and all into the mud, so that she would not stand out as a city girl.
This Wonder Woman was so dedicated that nothing could stop her, hostility, dirty jokes, abuse, and disdain and in the end she has brought her outstanding contribution:
We learn that about half of the facilities in America- and perhaps elsewhere- use her invention and the animals have a better life thanks to this genius.