On the remote, rugged island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, deaf-mute Belinda McDonald (Wyman) works on a farm with her father (Bickford) and Aunt Aggie (Moorehead). The nearby townspeople liken her condition to retardation. But when the town's doctor Robert Richardson (Ayres) meets Belinda, he spots a keen intelligence in her eyes, a judgment borne out when he teaches her sign language and lip reading. Just as Belinda comes into her own, however, she falls victim to a violent crime, whose repercussions threaten to undo all the progress she's made.
Jean Negulesco's stunningly shot drama is by turns touching and gripping, as we rejoice in Belinda's progress, then recoil at the vicious crime visited on her. Though the story veers towards melodrama, injecting one too many calamitous plot twists, this is a small quibble given the revelation of Wyman's Oscar-winning performance. Her rich characterization relies solely on facial expressions, yet the full range of her emotions shine through with delicacy and the ring of truth. Ayres makes a gentle, encouraging mentor, and Bickford and Moorehead, also Oscar-nominated, are both superb.