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. The stubborn girl refused to change her clothes, wear shoes, or bathe. When her father brings her to a convent school for deaf girls, we see her arms and legs are covered in scratches from crawling across the floor and through the underbrush. She’s part infant in a teenager’s body, part wild child: loving and willful, yet completely resistant to any attempts to steer her behavior.
France’s answer to The Miracle Worker, Marie’s Story is also based on real events, and it is just as much the story of the girl’s resolute teacher—like Helen Keller’s Annie Sullivan.