Nicholas Monsarrat’s poignant best-selling novel has been shaped into a glossy, highly effective screenplay, with David Miller’s direction affording his powerful cast every opportunity for an all-out assault on the emotions.
Joan Crawford is a rich American socialite who, revisiting her Irish birthplace, finds a young girl, deaf, dumb and blind as a result of an explosion when she was a child. Joan rescues the girl from her evil surroundings, takes her to the US and devotes her life to the girl’s recovery. This mercy campaign sparks the interest of the world, but Crawford’s estranged husband (played by Rossano Brazzi) and a slick exploitation guy turn it into a giant racket.
Apart from its gripping story, Esther Costello has an almost documentary quality in showing the patient way a mute can be taught to communicate with the world. So authentic are these scenes that Heather Sears, who portrays Esther, and Crawford as her tutor actually learned to ‘hand-talk’.
The acting throughout is impeccable and is noteworthy for a remarkable debut by 21-year-old Heather Sears, who stands up notably to seasoned competition though faced with the tricky chore of conveying emotion without benefit of eye-play or dialog.