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Deaf: Major Films  
TitleChildren of a Lesser God (1986)
Alternative/Original Title
DisabilityDeaf Speaking Impaired
CountryUSA
Length110
GenreDrama
Rating4
DirectorRanda Haines
CastWilliam Hurt Marlee Matlin Piper Laurie Philip Bosco Alison Gompf John F. Cleary John Basinger
NotesTeacher at school for deaf (Hurt) falls in love with deaf woman (Matlin, who is deaf). Good acting from principals raise this above average. I would consider this the best film on this subject. Though this is a romance the story is wholly concerned with what it means to be hearing impaired. The classroom sequences are well done even if we accept that Hurt's charismatic teaching is not the norm. The students are interesting individuals who show development under his tutelage. With the exception of one who doesn't respond at all to Hurt's efforts. This 'failure' is reflected in Matlin's character who Hurt tries to change, i.e... make her speak yet they find their common ground in her language (sign) not his. As a teacher he has failed, as a person he is a success. The film touches on much; teenagers, parents, school and still could be much more. It would be interesting to know more about Matlin's upbringing; the reasons for her 'disappearance' are not explained fully. Why weren't we shown other teachers at work, and with younger students? Why was no one shown wearing any form of hearing aid (not all were totally deaf like Matlin)? Some deaf teenagers become self conscious about wearing these devices. When Hurt persuades Matlin to give up work I would have expected his character to suggest she advance herself in some way. Or that Matlin discovered her own desire to study in the confidence of being loved by Hurt. His character didn't suggest a male chauvinist pig who would thwart her potential. Hurt is ideal in the role and in some ways so is Matlin. Her sign language is amazingly expressive and it's a pity some of us needed the device of having Hurt put into speech everything she said. I should like to see her in other roles before agreeing that she deserved an Oscar. Too often critics over praise films which they consider are well meaning or of social significance (c.f...... The Scent of a Woman). This is a very good film with fine performances which can stand on its own without any positive discrimination. Based on a play by Mark Medoff.

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