To me, I find it seemingly hard for people in life to gain influence or to have a perspective on one particular area of life. Temple Grandin, it would appear, was known in two aspects: for her work in creating a more humane system of slaughterhouse in America (in which we learn in the end that half of all slaughterhouses today uses her system); and, more importantly, for her work in autism, as she herself is autistic. This is especially important, cause at the time (60s and 70s), very little was known about autism. If it weren’t for her mother, she would have been institutionalized, and her eventual life’s work would have never occurred.

Not that it was easy. Temple did not like physical human interaction, which upset her mom deeply when all she wanted from her daughter was a hug. She was prone to “go wild”, to put it mildly, in that it only took a slight disturbance in her life to set her off. She only ate jello and pudding, the reason of which she did explain but I couldn’t remember what it was.

But Temple was extremely gifted too despite her autism. She thought in pictures, often times in very literal ways (early on, a mention of walking on water brings an image of Jesus walking on water). She used this to help build her hugging machine, among other things that she constructed in her life, and she did quite a lot of building.

Of equal importance was an empathy that she gained when interacting with animals. She was able to sense when animals were angry or upset, and sought out ways to alleviate their suffering. This became the source of her graduate thesis, and the creation of a system that created a more efficient, but also humane way, of bringing cattle through a slaughterhouse before it was stun-gunned.

By the way, she also has a doctorate.  For a woman with a disability like hers, that is very impressive.

The film covers the whole of her life story, from when she begins college until she completes her graduate thesis and becomes a spokesperson for autism.  Flashbacks are used to help flesh out the story – early childhood, boarding school, etc. – that help give meaning to who Temple is, plus add to the overall story.  There are little animations that accompany some of the instances that Temple sees pictures: most of it is used effectively and doesn’t distract.  It often helps, actually, in showing how Temple views the world.

The film is a little manipulative at times, especially since it doesn’t need to be (do we really need the shot at the end of Temple’s mom crying?).  It occurs rarely though, which is good, compared with other made-for-TV shows (I’m looking at you Lifetime).

Probably the greatest aspect of the movie is Claire Danes at Temple.  She is hardly recognizable, between the bushy hair and the acute walking style she exhibits.  Comparing her voice and demeanor during the film with the making of feature  is astounding.  I do believe she won awards for this role, and rightly so.

The film is available on DVD, so definitely check it out.  Very inspirational and uplifting.

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