Pumpkin Person rating: 7.5/10


I had purchased a ton of movies from a discount bin at Walmart a few years ago and one of them was a little known 1979 Australian movie called Tim, staring a young Mel Gibson.  I had actually forgot that I had purchased this film until commenter “Philosopher” asked me to do a blog post about Gibson, and so last week I finally decided to watch it.

The film, set in Australia, starts with a beautiful wealthy educated middle-aged woman named Mary (played by Piper Laurie who horror fans will remember as the mother in Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie).  When Mary’s gardener hurts his back, she hires Tim, a 24-year-old labourer (played by Gibson) to do work around her house.  It slowly dawns on Mary that Tim is not all there mentally,  but she continues to employ him and the two slowly fall in love.

Unlike the educated Mary, Tim comes from a working class family which would  make sense according to scholar Arthur Jensen, because he appears to have what Jensen called familial retardation, which means that unlike organic retardates, whose low IQs are caused by physically deforming freak mutations and chromosomal abnormalities, Tim is a handsome athletic physically healthy normal guy, who just happens to have an incredibly low IQ.

Because his low IQ is biologically normal, we’d expect him to come from a low IQ social class, with Tim just being an exceptionally extreme case.  By contrast organic retardation is just as likely to occur with any socioeconomic background.

As a fan of the slasher genre, I’m used to watching movies where scantly clad women are objectified and all the camera shots are from the male Point of View of the stalker watching from the bushes.    Although my reasons for liking slasher films are 100% non-sexual (I was a fan of the genre long before puberty) I realize a lot of them are just one level up from porn and serve a prurient need for the viewer, so I was a bit uncomfortable seeing a film shot partly through the female gaze (Mary’s) and a man (Tim) being objectified, though I suppose it’s only fair.

It’s interesting that the film is based on a novel by a female writer, which proves that women can be sexually drawn to men they look down on intellectually, occupationally and economically, if they find the man physically attractive, and indeed part of Mary’s attraction to Tim is his low IQ: his vulnerability inspires her maternal instincts.

How low is Tim’s IQ?  The movie never gives a number, but one clue is that he doesn’t know what death is and Mary has to explain it to him.  Not knowing what death is suggests Tim has the mind of a 10-year-old, so on the old fashion age-ratio IQ scales (which gives reasonable results from about IQ 65 to IQ 135), Tim’s mental age would be 10, which is only 63% of adult mental age (16+), suggesting an IQ of 63, which sounds about right.  Usually one step-up from Trainable (moderate) Retardation, familial retardates tend to be educable and only mildly retarded.

Gibson did a great job capturing this level of intelligence, because as commenter G-man has noted, such people often seem completely normal and it’s only after interacting with them for a bit that you discover the impairment.  Unlike a lot of cinematic portrayals of retardation which are over-the-top and unintentionally comical, Gibson was subtle, quiet, and understated; perfectly walking that fine line between normal and sub-normal.

If you don’t wait too long, you can watch the ENTIRE film on YouTube for free, though sadly, a lot of people lack the compassion, patience, sensitivity and emotional depth to appreciate such an innocent and poignant movie.