Producer-director Paul Newman has made his finest behind-the-camera film to date in the screen version of Paul Zindel’s play. As the slovenly, introverted mother of two young girls, Joanne Woodward brilliantly projects the pitiable character.
Alvin Sargent’s adaptation provides Woodward with a full complement of the despicable dimensions which make the focal character both a monster and an object of genuine pity.
Roberta Wallach is excellent as the elder daughter, Ruth, an epilepsy-prone, hardening creature almost destined to become her mother. As the younger girl, whose school experiments give the play its title, Nell Potts is equally impressive, with a sensitive screen presence most rare in young actresses.
Newman has gotten it all together here as a director, letting the story and the players unfold with simplicity, restraint and discernment.