powered by AFI
The film is a study of the Warrendale treatment center for emotionally disturbed children located near Toronto. The center attempts to foster a family attitude among the children by placing them, in groups of 12, in individual houses where parent-child relationships can develop between them and the trained staff. Unlike most mental institutions, Warrendale therapists believe in the expression of violence and encourage such outbreaks of emotion. Staff members physically wrap themselves around the child in a "holding" position so that the child can express his anguish without hurting himself or others. Because the children give vent to their strongest feelings, they come to know each other intimately; and hopefully with this knowledge comes acceptance of and concern for their friends. Tony, Carol, and Irene are three of the 12 children in one Warrendale house, and all of them are of normal intelligence but subject to frequent and extreme antisocial behavior. The angelic-looking Tony cannot speak without swearing; 15-year-old Carol still drinks milk from a baby bottle; and Irene, another teenager, vacillates between calm and despair in her desperate need for self-assurance. When the friendly cook in their house dies unexpectedly, the children react in diverse ways: two girls become hysterical, others are stunned into uncomprehending silence, and one boy professes total unconcern as a means of avoiding reality. Accompanied by the staff members, the children, sad but now subdued, attend the cook's funeral.