A beautiful drama. At the middle of it stands Alan Arkin, the mute jeweler Singer. He’s an almost Christ-like figure; intervening to help those around him. Singer’s tragedy, as both the doctor and Mick (Sandra Locke) acknowledge, is that he’s appreciated, even loved, but bereft of companionship. Everyone here has a flaw or disadvantage: beside Singer’s and Antonapolous’ (Chuck McCann’s) muteness, Blout (Stacy Keach) is a hapless alcoholic, Mr. Kelly (Bill McGuire) is disabled, as is the the doctor’s son-in-law (after his abuse at prison), and Mick and her mom are stuck in poverty. The doctor, along with the other black characters, has the stigma of race in an intolerant time and place.; he has terminal cancer as well.
Singer is essence works miracles; he brings out the good side of people. He gets Blout back on his feet (literally at first), turns the doctor’s racial hatred away, rekindles Portia’s (Cicely Tyson’s) love for her dad, exposes Mick to the culture that she craves, and, in a practical sense, helps Mick’s mom by renting their extra room. He isn’t able to keep Antonapolous going, but does everything he can to brighten up the guy’s life. Actually, he proves to be a continuous embarrassment to Singer; not much of a companion, let alone a friend. Blout’s too much of a vagabond to stick around, it wouldn’t be considered acceptable for Singer to socialize with the doctor, and Mick is too young for him. Tellingly, no one even ever plays chess with him.
The characters’ differences are given recognizable form, emblematic of the distances between people. In Singer’s case, he’s sort of left with all the loose ends. One way to view his suicide would be that he might think he’s failed. After all, he couldn’t save Antonapolous from himself. On the other hand, Antonapolous, along with all the others, have let him down. Arkin does such a great job in this role, his face, eyes, and mouth are so expressive that you know what he feels. Although the film is incredibly sad, it’s nonetheless uplifting. We sense that Mick will be ok. As she lets on, things will even just a bit brighter for her for having known Singer. 10/10.