Film Review – The Miracle Worker (1962)

The Miracle Worker is the incredible true story and Oscar winning film that depicts the early life of Helen Keller (Patty Duke). After a virus leaves Helen without her hearing or sight, Helen is forced to grow up in a world without light and sound, but when her parents hear about the Perkins Institute, Annie Sullivan (Oscar winner Anne Bancroft) soon arrives and through her will and dogged determination manages to teach Helen to communicate in ways she never thought was possible.

Met with Helen’s equally forceful personality, Annie soon starts to realise just how intelligent Helen really is and through the use of sign language and corrective behaviour, Annie manages to transform Helen’s life, teaching her right from wrong as well as how to open up her world. However, Annie’s teachings are met with confrontation by Helen’s own parents, who despite wanting their daughter to be able to communicate, find Annie’s methods too much for them to handle and when things get too much they constantly try to get in Annie’s way. Both Bancroft and Duke give award worthy performances with a chemistry that transfer from the original play in which they both starred to the silver screen with and a story born of maternal love. Annie and Helen’s mother, Kate (Inga Swenson) relationships with Helen are also explored, with wildly different methods, but as they start to understand each other, they manage to find a compromise in order to help Helen. A story which shows two very different methods of parenting that both manage to compliment each other.

Beautifully shot and precisely choreographed scenes between Bancroft and Duke give the story not only a heart but show the dramatic and sometimes shocking scenes where Helen acts out because she simply doesn’t know any better. Duke shows a fantastic aptitude in her performance and despite being only considered a supporting actor, has arguably the most difficult role and manages to pull it off with ease despite only being a teenager during filming.

The Miracle Worker is a classic of Oscar winning cinema that paved the way for a lot of stories to be told on the big screen that would educate, entertain and inform audiences about many different walks of life. A charming, heart-warming film that should be cherished and watched by many audiences for years to come.

Drama | USA, 1962 | PG | 27th January 2020 (UK) | Blu-Ray | Eureka Classics | Dir.Arthur Penn | Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke, Victor Jory, Inga Swenson, Andrew Prine

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