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The Miracle Worker (2000)
The Miracle Worker is a 2000 television remake of the 1962 film with the same name. It is based on the life of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan's struggles to teach her. This movie is the story about Annie Sullivan, played by Alison Elliott, and her efforts in working with a young sullen Helen Keller, played by Hallie Kate Eisenberg. The movie focuses on Annie’s struggle to draw Helen, a blind, deaf and mute girl out of her world of darkness and silence. Helen has been unable to communicate with her family except through physical temper tantrums since a childhood illness took her three senses from her at the age of 19 months old. She is allowed to eat with her hands, knock over or break anything and basically do whatever else she desires. All of this while being looked at with pity by her family. Her family loves her but they are all convinced she is a dumb, soft-brained child with the intelligence of an animal who will never learn anything. She is barely pacified with candy when she throws a tantrum and is headed toward institutionalization in a sanitarium when Annie Sullivan enters her life as Helen’s parents' last-ditch effort to avoid the inevitable.
Believe it or not, Disney's watery version of the classic play and true story is not as bad as you'd think. While Eisenberg grates, at least she doesn't get to speak. Alison Elliott, so memorable in films like The Wings of the Dove, plays the titular worker of miracles Annie Sullivan as angry and almost mean, but in the end she is called upon to carry the picture, and she mostly does. David Strathairn's turn as Captain Keller (also angry and mean) is forgettable, but it's the small performance by Lucas Black (All the Pretty Horses) as Helen's brother that is actually the best part of the movie.
Typical Sunday-afternoon Disney production values don't do much for the picture, but if you're looking for a primer on the handicapped to show to children, The Miracle Worker might be a good bet.