Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: Charly

Charly (1968)

Charly Gordon is a severely retarded adult who is given a second chance when he is selected for an experiment for a technique to raise human intelligence.  The operation succeeds beyond the dreams of the scientists, but it turn into a tragedy when the now super genius Charly discovers that the effects are only temporary.

Based on the Novella "Flowers for Algernon", Charly came to the big screen through the efforts of star Cliff Robertson, who created the role of Charly on Television as was determined to play the part in the film adaptation.  It's a wise choice on his part because Robertson is perfectly cast as Charly; making his sympathetic and even lovable without descending into mawkishness or self-righteousness.  In his performance, we see a man who has been offered a release from the prison of his own mind, his frustration at his slow progress, his confusion over his identity as he outstrips his fellow man and despair as he learns that he is only on parole from idiocy.  It's a very poignant story, but in many respects it acts as a bittersweet metaphor for the human condition as each of us must come to terms with out own enfeeblement and mortality.

Balancing Robertson is Claire Bloom as his adult education teacher who introduces Charly to the scientists and acts his guide.  In some ways, her journey is even more difficult as she must come to terms with a child in an adult body who she must accept as her intellectual equal, then her superior and then, most difficult as a man whom she falls in love with only to face losing him.

Though rarely seen as such, Charly is fits squarely as science fiction at its best and exemplifies the sort of fantasy that has become very rare nowadays; a story of an individual faced with some scientific novelty that changes his life.

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