The touching McCullers novel is here capsulized in a less than rewarding film wherein Arkin plays a deaf mute who earns his living as a silversmith engraver. When his closest friend, McCann, another mute who is also retarded, is placed in a distant institution, Arkin moves to a small town to be near him. He rents a room in the home of McGuire and Barrett, who need money since McGuire is unemployed and is recuperating with a broken hip. Locke, the family's teenage daughter, resents being moved from her room to make a space for Arkin. He later wins her over by interesting her in classical music. Getting a job in the area, Arkin also befriends Keach, an alcoholic who later develops a kidney infection, and Rodriguez, a segregationist black physician whose only ambition in life is to have his daughter, Tyson, better her life; she is a domestic servant and is married to an illiterate field hand, Popwell. Rodriguez is dying of cancer, a secret he asks Arkin to keep from Tyson. Popwell is later jailed after a run-in with white bigots and loses a leg after being chained up following a jailbreak attempt. Locke, meanwhile, has a sexual affair with Smith and loses her virginity, which confuses and angers her. When she learns that her father, McGuire, will be a permanent cripple and that she must work to support the family, she turns against Arkin, making his life miserable. Then Arkin goes to visit his pal, McCann, only to learn he has been dead for a number of weeks. The world has turned black as well as silent for Arkin; he returns to his lonely room and kills himself. Feeling guilty, Locke visits Arkin's grave and meets Rodriguez. They talk about Arkin and their problems, and Locke admits that Arkin in his quiet way has helped her through her crisis. The film does not work well despite Arkin's fine effort. Unlike the novel, which details human nuances and the subtleties of racism and hatred for the deformed, the film attempts to encompass too much, presenting disjointed character development. The direction by Miller is choppy and flat, and the entire production is a poor paste-up of the story. Other than Arkin, the cast, including Keach in a stereotyped, predictable role, is unconvincing. Locke is in over her head and plays the spoiled brat with no energy at all, just a carping posture and a vocal delivery guaranteed to annoy. Arkin was nominated as Best Actor, but lost to Cliff Robertson. Locke also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.