Charly boasts a most intriguing premise – a variation on the Pygmalion theme in which a mentally retarded adult ‘grows up’ as the result of a brain operation.
Recognizing that this idea [from the short story and novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes] could be developed along several different lines, producer-director Ralph Nelson and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant try them all, with the result that Charly merges a peculiar combination of sentimentalized documentary, romance, science fiction and social drama.
Instead of frittering away time on an unmotivated romance, it would have been interesting if the reasons for this psychologically complicated affair were explored.
Considering the innumerable stumbling blocks, cast does well. Cliff Robertson seems to overdo the external manifestations of retardation, but he is excellent in the post-operative scenes. With more help from the script he could have been a movingly tragic figure.
1968: Best Actor (Cliff Robertson)