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  Mandy The Silent World
Year: 1952
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Stars: Phyllis Calvert, Jack Hawkins, Terence Morgan, Godfrey Tearle, Mandy Miller, Marjorie Fielding, Nancy Price, Edward Chapman, Patricia Plunkett, Eleanor Summerfield, Colin Gordon, Dorothy Alison, Julian Amyes, Gabrielle Brune, John Cazbon, Jane Asher
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When her daughter Mandy (Mandy Miller) was a baby, housewife Christine Garland (Phyllis Calvert) noticed that she was not talking and responding quite as she thought she should, not in comparison to the child of her best friend, at any rate. She expressed her worries to husband Harry (Terence Morgan), who tried to allay her fears, telling her that Mandy was obviously a bright child and that she was just a late developer, but one night Christine could stand it no more and was able to demonstrate that her daughter was actually deaf. Now she was a problem, what could they do about the little girl?

Mandy was for a while widely regarded as a classic British film and one of the greatest dramas that Ealing Studios ever produced, but after a few decades it fell out of the public consciousness and is now recalled by those who saw it and were moved by its simple but mature approach to its case. In truth, it's not quite the example of excellence that its reputation would have had you believe, but its presentation of British stiff upper lips trembling with repressed emotions outside of the war movies that were popular in its day does bring the odd misty eyed scene or lump in the throat to the more susceptible viewer.

Everyone here endeavours to carry on as normal, not to rock the boat and make a scene, all except Mandy who does not know any better. Because of this situation, the Garlands have brought up the girl to the age of six without allowing her to mix with anyone outside of her own family, as she lives with Harry's parents to relieve some of the burden on Christine. But she is awakening to the knowledge that this life is not a psychologically healthy one for the girl, as she is not getting the education she needs, and Christine starts casting about for a school to send Mandy to. Her husband, on the other hand, is far from pleased, even to the point of hitting her when he loses his temper, but she will not be moved.

Harry is a selfish moron if you want to be frank about it, but the film refuses to judge anyone too harshly in what are unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, Christine does take Mandy to a deaf school in Manchester, far from their London home, but the results are not as successful as she would have liked, offering more grist to Harry's mill of objections. The head of the school is Dick Searle, played by that master of the stiff upper lip Jack Hawkins in one of his finest, most sympathetic performances, and after a few weeks of Mandy's tantrums he is ready to admit defeat. The girl misses her family, and cannot get used to this new environment, but then her mother has a brainwave.

Christine moves up to take a flat in the city where she can be with Mandy, but Harry is left behind to sulk. This does mean that the girl can get the love of a parent to bolster her confidence, and after all that prison imagery that director Alexander Mackendrick places around the child actress, it's nice to see her gradually freed from her own personal cell of silence. Can Searle get her to speak, though? Oddly, no sign language is ever contemplated, lipreading is seen as the ideal manner of communication, though you do get the impression that if this film were solely concerned with teaching a deaf girl to say things, it would be far shorter. Due to that, a subplot where Searle's job is under threat thanks to the machinations of Mr Grimsdale himself, school board member Edward Chapman, emerges and finally takes over, with Christine surrounded by rumours she is having an affair with the doting teacher. That's all much of a muchness, but any scene that unsentimentally shows Mandy being drawn out of her shell is quietly powerful - well, quiet unless she's screaming in frustration, that is. Music by William Alwyn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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