Alexander Mackendrick’s pioneering drama about the experiences of a young deaf girl remains underrated alongside his great Ealing comedies Whisky Galore! and The Ladykillers (1955).
When Mandy’s parents find out she is deaf, they have differing ideas on what to do next. Mother, Christine (Phyllis Calvert), wants to send her to a special school for deaf children so she can learn to read and write – and perhaps speak – and be as much like other children as possible.
But her father, Harry (Terence Morgan), is ashamed of his daughter and would rather keep Mandy hidden away at his parents’ house with only a governess to teach her the finger alphabet.
After seeing how she reacts with other children, Christine realises that for Mandy’s sake she must get her to the school, and leaves Harry.
Watching Mandy’s progress in the school provides some fascinating insight into ways of teaching – Mackendrick highlighted the speech therapies being pioneered at the Royal Residential Schools for the Deaf in Manchester – and, contrary to Harry’s thoughts, she does progress, with help from headmaster Searle (Jack Hawkins).
Adapted from the Hilda Lewis novel The Day Is Ours, the film contains one of the best performances by a child actor in British film history.
Many believed seven-year-old Mandy Miller (the daughter of a BBC producer) was hearing impaired herself, such was the believability of her performance.
Mandy offers a valuable snapshot of its times. Art director Jim Morahan fills the bourgeois family home with old-fashioned fixtures and fittings, as well as imposing walls, doors, railings and barred windows that emphasise the sense of entrapment that Mandy shares with her mother.
This sincere drama was nominated for six BAFTAs and won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. Mandy also features Jane Asher’s first film appearance.
Mandy (Amanda Jane Garland)