Well, the year’s award season kicked off this past weekend with the 62nd Annual Emmy Awards with a big winner being Temple Grandin. An HBO film, the made-for-TV-movie is very well deserving of all the accolades. Temple Grandin (played beautifully by Claire Danes, a winner for best actress) is a high functioning autistic woman who falls in love with animal husbandry and goes on to earn a Ph.D and become a world-famous animal scientist and autism self-advocate.
Skillfully directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard), the story attempts and succeeds in explaining in a “non-explainy” way how Temple’s brain works. It is extraordinarily effective. You learn how after one viewing or hearing of something Temple remembers it – perfectly. How she is unable to understand idioms – her brain is incredibly literal. And how unfortunate it is that she is unable to express affection or receive affection from others. Temple finds it difficult to be touched (which made the real life moment of the actual Temple Grandin hugging Executive Producer Emily Gerson after the movie won for best television movie even more poignant). A touching moment in the film is when her mother (Julia Ormond – winner of best supporting actress for her portrayal) talks to Temple about how expression is given through the eyes – an action Temple exclaims she will never be able to do. Heartbreaking.
With the help of an understanding teacher (the enormously underrated David Strathairn – again an Emmy winner for this film) Temple discovers her special ability to think like animals – mainly cows – and goes on to develop a very successful career. And how many of us yearn for a successful career doing something we love? Damn, that’s lucky!
This film is a lesson in never believing in labels. Temple Grandin’s story is an attest to that. She will always be different and for that she will always be a wonder.