‘Marie’s Story’ on Amazon Prime

Isabelle Carré and Ariana Rivoire in Jean-Pierre Améris's 'Marie's Story' from France

Marie’s Story (France, 2014), France’s answer to The Miracle Worker, is also based on real events. Marie Heurtin was born deaf and blind to loving but overworked parents in 19th century rural France. Kept at home because no institution but the asylum would take her in, she lived in sensory isolation, loved but untutored and unrestrained. She’s part infant in a teenager’s body, part wild child, loving and willful and completely resistant to any attempts to steer her behavior.

If Marie is France’s Helen Keller, then Sister Marguerite is their Annie Sullivan, neither deaf nor blind but compassionate and devoted. The sweet, spirited young nun makes a brief connection when Marie (Ariana Rivoire) flees in fear from the nuns and hides in a tree. Marguerite (Isabelle Carré) is a gardener, not a teacher, and is frail and ill under her resolute spirit, but that contact convinces her that there is an intelligence that needs to be freed from her bubble and that Marie wants to connect. Turned away by the Mother Superior (they’ve never face a student both deaf and blind), Marguerite makes a case to give her a chance and makes Marie her mission.

Marie’s Story is lovely and sweet and sad and uplifting in all the familiar ways, with nary a villain in sight. Carré is petite and sunny, like a French Amy Adams scrubbed of the Hollywood make-up, and Rivoire, a deaf actress in her film debut, is strong and spirited as Marie. Jean-Pierre Améris brings is a sensual quality to scenes of Marie’s experience and the wordless communication and sharing between the two: the pleasures of feeling her way through a grassy field, the cool splash of a lazy brook, the warmth of the sun on skin, the affirmation of human touch, and the smooth familiarity of a pocket knife, Marie’s favorite object. If the film never delves into the inner lives of our two heroes or transcends the conventions of the inspirational true-life story, it satisfies them nicely with vivid performances, lovely imagery, and compassionate direction.

In French with subtitles, not rated.

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Also on DVD
Marie’s Story [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.