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The Miracle Worker
Directed by Arthur Penn
Starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke
Written by William Gibson
Running Time: 106 minutes
''The Miracle Worker'' tells the story of Helen Keller - a 7 year old girl, who''s been deaf and blind since contracting an illness as a baby. Through no fault of her own, Helen has grown up a spoilt child (though in a completely unconventional way), and from frustration at her incapability, she''s prone to frequent, violent outbursts, as well as being accustomed to being a difficult and rude child, doing as she pleases, when she pleases.
After an incident where Helen knocks her infant sister out of her pram, her father, Captain Keller, insists that something be done. Horrified at the thought of sending Helen to an asylum, her parents agree to find her a mentor/teacher.
Enter Anne Sullivan - a 20 year old partially-blind, Irish girl. Anne arrives at the Keller household with confidence, and appears to gain Helen''s trust, bribing her with a doll. Helen, however, soon outwits her, and Anne is slightly horrified to see just how unruly Helen is. Anne''s shock grows at dinner that night, but she does make a breakthrough with Helen.
Encouraged by the breakthrough, Helen''s parents allow Anne to spend 2 weeks with Helen in a cottage near the house. Anne believes that in order to get through to her, Helen must be completely dependent on her.
Anne, through sheer persistence and growing love, breaks through to Helen, on a journey which breaks down all of the walls surrounding her.
''The Miracle Worker'' is outstanding, and I''m tempted to leave it there, but I assume you want to know why.
The film''s success and integrity relies almost wholly on it''s two leading actresses, although it''s supported also by a golden script. Rather than being the brain child of a successful Hollywood businessman, the story is based on real life, and feels like it comes from the heart (cringe, but honestly there is no other way to put it)
At the time of the films release, Anne Bancroft was practically unknown in the eyes of Hollywood, and Patty Duke was an upcoming child star. Both had found success on Broadway, starring in the play version of ''The Miracle Worker'', with Bancroft winning a Tony for her performance.
However, no one could have foreseen the triumph they would have found in these roles. Anne Bancroft, who stars as Anne Sullivan, manages to make her character incredibly likeable but stubborn as a mule. She shines on screen, causing the audience to feel reluctant to like her, and yet so much sympathy. She makes this work by making her character, and all her problems and insecurities completely real.
Patty Duke, who was 15 at the time of filming, had the tougher end of the deal, playing the deaf and blind Helen Keller. She had acting experience before doing this, but its a wonder how she makes the character so believable - there''s questioning her performance at all. It''s even more amazing to think that she''s playing someone half her age, a tough thing to do.
The story itself is heartbreaking, and the final scene is quite honestly the most eye-opening, inspiring thing I''ve seen in cinema (I won''t spoil it by telling what happens, you really have to watch it for yourself). It''s so modest, and humble - there''s nothing overly sentimental about it, it''s genuine and real.
The film is rated PG, most likely for Helen''s frequent outbursts, although I don''t know how much younger children would enjoy this. Teens may find it enlightening and influential, but it''s your decision who to show it to you.
This film, however, is not a popcorn movie, rather a hard-hitting drama. It''s filmed entirely in black and white, possibly due to it''s low budget, and if you''re someone who needs constant thrilling scenes and action, you may find it''s not for you. I will advise you to not let this put you off, and watch it anyway - I''ve never seen anything as inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking as this.