Who knew a bio-based movie about the struggles of an autistic woman achieving her dream of humanely processing cattle could be so heart-warming and tear-wrenching? (The cattle industry part would be the bit to incline me to keep browsing.) I watched it, got myself a cup of coffee and watched it again. Mentioned it to my son, and several weeks later, we were both watching it. The casting feels spot on; Claire Danes does an amazing job; the story is inspiring ... all those standard superlatives apply. Temple's encounters with bullying and those who questioned her own nature as a human without bothering to consider her intelligence and abilities, her own ways of identifying and solving problems, and her unwavering determination, nicely carry the movie on one level. But I love it for the way Temple Grandin, with the unique visual talent bestowed by her autism, framed the problems she first sensed, then solved, in improving how a business could treat a living commodity more compassionately without sacrificing profit.
My family raised dairy cows; my grandfather founded an auction house ... I've seen how cows are (in many cases, thankfully, were) farmed, beginning to beyond the end, Auction houses terrified me--so much pandemonium and sadness in the ways people overrode what limited control the animal possessed. Slaughter houses appalled me, however much I love meat. Deafening mooing, the smell of fear, and then nothing but the clanking of chains and the gears of conveyors. Life had ended at its most frightened, cortisol-spiked moment. It's one of those things many of us would rather ignore. But Temple didn't. She wasn't fussed about killing cows for the meat they provided--Temple was nothing if not a pragmatist. Cows aren't zoo animals, as she says, they are food. Instead, she wanted to make sure we treated the lives of animals we depend on with respect. "Nature is cruel, but we don't have to be."
It wasn't the movie I was expecting, yet it was exactly the movie I was looking for at the time, and I will be forever grateful I didn't just browse past it.