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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Temple Grandin

Or: Different, not Less

As I watched the young Dr. Grandin (Claire Danes), struggle with the overstimulating world, I found it remarkable to see how much her panic mirrored the distress of the cows she grew close to through out the film. This is not to say that Dane’s impersonation equated Doctor Grandin with kine, but that it underlined her empathy with the creatures and how similar the cows are to us. It was a welcome epiphany in an uncomfortable film.

Uncomfortable does not necessarily mean bad. As a bio-pic relating major passages in Grandin’s career there is a lot to be uncomfortable about. Today Dr. Grandin is recognized and revered as the foremost mind in both humane animal husbandry and living with autism. In her youth, however, she was running hard before the herd of humanity, and only managed to avoid getting trampled into oblivion by her own perspicacity and a cadre of kind souls. The acts of cruelty and willfulness arranged against Grandin, and the difficulty of marshaling her thoughts against them, made my fists clench and my face jerk away in shame.

The actual history of Grandin’s life jumps around so often that it is difficult to keep track of what leads to what. Where the director Mick Jackson excels is in illustrating how Grandin “sees in pictures”, overlaying diagrams and images over the action, to show us the associations that sets our heroine to panic to her precise plans to redesign a slaughterhouse. Danes does a commendable job of stepping into Grandin’s autism. Everything from the raucous voice to the hunched shoulders to her expressions of delight as she outwits another kink in the system speaks of close research and a great respect for her subject.

I cannot call Temple Grandin an enjoyable film, but do find it an engrossing one. You will come away with much more knowledge of parts of the world you’ve given only cursory thought to before. It’s imaginative, daring, and if some of its a wee bit soupy or unbelievable, well, you’ll just have to trust the good folks at HBO that they’re telling you as true a tale as is fit to print. Like Grandin herself, the film is “different but not less” and worth a sit through if you want to follow the tale of a remarkable warrior for right.

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