Alan Arkin plays John Singer – a deaf mute in a small Southern American town. His only friend is Sprio Antonapoulos (Chuck McCann), another deaf mute who is also mentally disabled and who is eventually shipped off to a state hospital.
In order to be nearer to his friend, Singer moves to another, larger town.
There he meets an anxious teenage girl called Mick (Sondra Locke in her feature film debut) and forms a close relationship with her. He also does his best to help semi-alcoholic drifter Jake Blount (Stacy Keach) and Dr Copeland (Percy Rodriguez), a cancer-ridden white-hating black doctor.
Just by being kind, Singer brings some light into the lives of his new friends. But there seems to be no one who can appreciate Singer’s own problems.
Helping others, he learns, has great but limited therapeutic effects. He fails nobody, but in the end, everybody fails him.
Arkin is good but does overdo some aspects of his role. Sondra Locke makes a most impressive screen debut.
Percy Rodriguez as the first proud, then humiliated doctor, is also good. Both Arkin and Locke earned Academy Award nominations for their performances.
The photography is unusually excellent – Selma, Alabama, is presented in all its Southern charm and splendour – and while the film is over two hours long, it never seems to drag.
The film was adapted from a 1940 novel by Carson McCullers.
Margaret “Mick” Kelly
Dr Benedict Copeland
Horace Oates Jr
Anna Lee Carroll
Deputy Sheriff Ivor
Ronald A. Riner
Robert Ellis Miller