Fred Zinnemann's film version of Carson McCullers' classic play features a transcendent performance by Julie Harris. A fragile mood piece, McCullers' play deals with the pain and sense of abandonment experienced by an adolescent girl on the day of her brother's marriage. Embodying the awkwardness, alienation, and moodiness of adolescence, Julie Harris brings twelve-year-old Frankie painfully to life, in a film that could be thought of as a more gentle companion piece to Rebel Without a Cause (1954). Shunned by the more feminine neighborhood girls, the tomboyish heroine takes consolation in the presence of her wise maid Berenice Ethel Waters and her somewhat eccentric cousin John Henry Brandon de Wilde. Sensitively directed by Zinnemann, who brings a welcome naturalism to this delicate material, the film sometimes brings to mind The Search (1948), his film on European post-WWII refugee children. More than anything, one comes away from the experience regretting the paucity of similar screen roles in the career of the justifiably legendary Harris.
by Michael Costello review