If you’re not familiar with Grandin, she is an autistic woman who is considered to be one of the nation’s top animal biologists. She credits her exceptional facility for understanding animals’ fears and needs and actions to the perceptual lens her own autistic condition has—for better and for worse— uniquely provided.
Her 2004 book, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, was easily my favorite book I read that year.
Terry Gross has interviewed Grandin three different times on Fresh Air (once for the release of each one of Grandin’s books). This past Friday, Fresh Air played a compilation of the interviews to coincide with the launching of the HBO movie.
The movie, which would have been all to simple to wreck, is thankfully reported to be excellent. Mary McNamera at the LA Times said it was:
Utterly and gorgeously unsentimental, “Temple Grandin,” arriving Saturday, clomps across the screen with all the wild-eyed grace of its main character, chronicling the life of a woman who not only overcame a host of physical, mental and social obstacles but actually used her autism to create a career for herself in animal husbandry.
The film stars, of all people, Claire Danes, who in the clips that I have heard, is stunningly good.. The Huffington Post says of Danes:
Finally, she has a found a role where she is beyond great, she is stupendous. Claire Danes is revelatory as Temple Grandin animal behaviorist, best-selling author, autistic and expert in autism. This is a fascinating movie and I learned so much about this woman and about autism. Temple did not speak until she was four and if not for her mother would have probably ended up spending her life in an institution. What a loss that would have been.
I’ve got it TiVOed and plan to watch it tonight.. (It is playing off and on during much of the week.)
But, whether or not you watch the movie, at the very least, if you don’t know about Temple Grandin, do yourself a favor listen to the interview mash-up. Her unique and entirely unsentimental ability to feel into an animal’s perspective tells us a great deal about our fellow creatures and also, frankly, about ourselves.
I saw the film late last night, and it’s so, so incredibly good. Claire Danes is spectacular. She utterly vanishes into being Grandin.
Please, just see it. You’ll thank me. If you don’t have HBO, wait until it’s on DVD and go for it then. But if you miss it, you’ll be missing out. So don’t.