Saturday 25 November 2023

Movie Review: The Miracle Worker (1962)

Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Arthur Penn
Starring: Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke
Running Time: 106 minutes

Synopsis: The setting is Alabama in the 1880s, where seven-year-old Helen Keller (Patty Duke) is blind, deaf, and resistant to parenting. Boston's Perkins School For The Blind dispatches recently graduated and near-blind teacher Anne Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) to become Helen's live-in personal instructor. Anne has to teach Helen basic methods of communication and appropriate behaviour, while overcoming her parents' well-intentioned but damagingly tolerant attitudes.

What Works Well: William Gibson's adaptation of his hit Broadway play (based on Keller's autobiography) is a stunning showcase of committed physical acting. Patty Duke's Keller starts out as a feral child, and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan never yields in what becomes a battle of wills and wits between determined teacher and unwilling student. Sullivan's valiant attempt to teach Keller basic table manners is an exhilarating and exhausting sequence, director Arthur Penn converting the dining room into a showdown of bruising moves and countermoves. Anne's own backstory of childhood hardship adds rich context as the fuel igniting her fire to succeed.

What Does Not Work As Well: The dominant two central performances push all the supporting characters (mainly Helen's parents and older brother) into the bumpkin background.

Conclusion: The seemingly impossible becomes possible with unshakeable resolve. 

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