Children of a Lesser God Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 9, 2014
A sincere and touching drama with laudable performances by William Hurt and Marlee Matlin, whose wonderful chemistry together always convinces us of their characters' feelings for each other and of the real, authentic difficulties they meet in their relationship.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2010
A commentary on the state of the deaf community after so many years of innovation in teaching techniques, medicine, and biology, was missing from this romantic drama. Marlee Matlin was a great choice in casting, and her emotional portrayal of a deaf custodian was surely realistic and award show worthy, but many theater goers were probably filled with unanswered questions concerning what it is to be taken advantage of. The relationship between herself and Hurt's character is not only rooted in traditional truth but has a deeper chemistry that resonates. It was very enjoyable to watch Hurt teach children through relatibility, which is a tried and true formula, but he never gets Matlin out of her shell to a point where one can be satisifed. Slightly underwhelming.
Super Reviewer
February 27, 2011
Slow and boring. The "love" seemed rushed and shallow for the depths of such drama! Performances for this movie have been overrated!
Super Reviewer
½ April 5, 2007
If the original play was "tough" as the Flixster summary describes it, I'd be really interested to watch that. Its movie offspring is well-made, well-acted and offers a dignified look at having a disability, but it's also blurry and squishy like romance movies of the 80s tend to be. There's only a handful of moments where I felt like it was having any sort of impact. At the same time, though, I have a deaf friend who really dislikes this movie, so maybe there's some sort of enormous insult to deaf culture folded in here. I dunno.

Interesting movie all around, a strong performance from Marlee Matlin (Oscar-winning? Amongst her weak competition, sure, but probably not in most years), and a generally compelling and compassionate narrative, but nothing life changing. It may open your eyes a bit if you don't know anything about deaf people. There's some sensible scene work - I was really involved with the scene where Marlee Matlin and John Hurt went to a party where everyone except Hurt was deaf and he felt so awkward and uncomfortable that he asked to go home. Without saying much else, it's an interesting way of looking at how Matlin's character deals with every day of her life. One thing that I found particularly annoying about it was Hurt's need to verbally repeat all of Matlin's sign language. It feels forced; why not subtitles? I have a really hard time imagining anyone watching a movie about deaf people having a problem with subtitles.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2008
Marlee Matlin is mysterious, beautiful, angry, and I've fallen into the pool with her. Film itself is a little patchy and some directorial choices aren't strong enough but the story is poignant and sweetly erotic.

**I know I keep changing this rating. It's probably just proximity afterglow from Marlee Matlin being so rock-awesome on Dancing With the Stars.
Super Reviewer
October 3, 2006
Unusual love story between a teacher of the deaf and a deaf janitor. Marlee Matlin has a superb performance on her debut film. I love Deaf community / culture movies.
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2007
A beautiful film. Unfortunately this seems to be one and only hurrah for Marlee Matlin.
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2011
The score is admittedly awful, I really don't think all the supporting characters get a fair say, and Piper Laurie's mother character is underdeveloped, but the central love story works. Most relationships are hard enough, but add the lack of one party to communicate verbally and a whole slew of issues surfaces. The film faces them head on, and while I'm sure its still softer than the play I don't think we are given any illusions about how hard these two people will have it.
½ August 28, 2011
I enjoyed this film, & give great credit for the bringing in the deaf
into the hearing ,& visa-versa. Marlee Matlin is a most gorgeous woman.
William Hurt does a good portrayal as a teacher ,too. Although, would
have liked to see more classroom scenes, with the rest of the
charecters . The film was too short for the story . Although, you
need to allow the lapse of time, also a little poorly indicated.
Yet, the base of the story, I believe, is you can overcome anything,
when it comes to love . Love does not need sound, sight, or even
touch. It is just there , & you know when you feel it, inside .
Not a touch feeling, but a heart feeling, as well as thought ,
almost, as if you and only you, are in a different time & space .
Only wishing , to bring the other person , in with you.

As I said, I believe the film, is too short for the story . This would have been exellent as a book . To expand a little more on the story .
Did you notice, that at the beginning, William is takeing the boat to
& from the island ? As if to say, He is entering her world of scilence, every day ? Yet, He tries to bring her , into his ?
Then , towards the end, they are together . As one .
½ May 31, 2011
Straightforward and predictable, made tolerable by Marlee Matlin being pretty hot and stuff, although I'm still not totally sure why William Hurt was some kind of '80's sex symbol. He's not a bad actor, though.
May 26, 2010
The end was nice, but for the most part this was a rather unremarkable film. While I respect the adversity she overcame in her chosen career, I feel Marlee Matlin winning a best actress award stinks of a pc gesture.
½ January 11, 2010
I have a deaf friends and i can say for sure by dating a very special woman in my life she taught me that communication is more than words alone. god bless her
½ January 1, 2007
I am a ASL student and i haven't gotten around to seeing this movie until last night and i am now taking ASL-3 so it was cool to be able to understand a good deal of the signing done in the movie. The performances are great a very good movie that i would recommend to any one
May 4, 2007
Not only was this a good romance, it was actually a very good teacher movie. William Hurt is very interesting as the male lead and Marlee Matlin is absolutely superb as his deaf girlfriend. It felt like it lost a little steam near the end, however, it goes pretty solidly until then. Well worth the watch!
½ July 10, 2009
An awesome love story, with great performances by Marlee Matlin ( she won the oscar for this ) and especially William Hurt.
February 7, 2007
Love Marlee Matlin-excellent! Youngst actress to win an Oscar for Leading Actress for this film. SHe has never compromised her deafness and she is a true inspiration!
November 9, 2007
I bought this movie knowing essentialy nothing of it except that it was well thought of, and eventually that it involved deafness. When I hear something like that, my stomach immediately ties in knots--are people saying it's good because it is, or because they don't want to be perceived as cruelly prejudiced? Putting the DVD in, I expected to sit back to either a glorified afternoon special of an extremely artsy, lush, slow-paced movie that constantly turned its nose up at everything.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first scene in the school that James Leeds (William Hurt) has taken a job at. We first see him arriving and talking to the principal (or whatever position of authority it is that Dr. Curtis Franklin (Philip Bosco) holds), but things begin to move once we hit the classroom. Leeds begins by asking who reads lips, saying his signing is rusty. The students stare at him blankly and he says "All right, class dismissed," and neglects to sign this time. They fall for it and he catches them heading for the door. This gives us an overall flavour for the movie's approach--one I was pleased with. It's not trying painfully hard to make the deaf world perfectly clear to the hearing world, nor is it assuming the viewer knows everything about it either. Leeds teaches with energy, trying to use relatable concepts to encourage the nervous, self-conscious students to speak, often making a bit of a fool of himself in the process, but never in that overly cringe-inducing false way.

But, we only see snippets of his classroom, because the real focus of the movie is on his relationship with Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin), a deaf woman (as in completely deaf) who works as a janitor at the school and attracts his attention with her firey anger and stubborn refusal to connect to anyone. He takes it upon himself to teach her to speak, something he understands backfired in her early years when she first started at the school as a student. The rest of the film is all about their interactions, about the ways they connect and the ways they fail to connect, the things they understand of each other and don't understand of each other, the different worlds and viewpoints they both come from.

Matlin won an Oscar for her role, which I do think was well-deserved. The anger and frustration of Sarah at the way everyone around her sees her (as "broken" and in need of "fixing") is absolutely believable; the way she turns from James constantly, ready to break away at a moment's notice from his presence because she doesn't feel she needs it, because she feels he is like the rest and because she sees him trying to change her, well-intentioned though he is. We can see the hurt she won't even acknowledge herself though, hiding in these angry moments and occasionally coming out in moments of extreme vulnerability, when she sees how happy his singing students make him.

Hurt impressed me more, but only because I knew him as bland, vanilla and less than impressive next to the unrelated-but-similarly-named John Hurt. He always seemed like a really banal choice, sort of like Jeff Bridges--believeable as their characters, even sympathetic, but generally ho-hum and uninteresting. Both have changed my mind (and certainly A History of Violence was a surprise for me as Hurt goes), but this really changed my mind about Hurt. The way he acted in two scenes, making valiant but both failing attempts at understanding Sarah's world was perfect in its complex mix of good intention, awkward confusion and legitimate effort, at least in one of them. At one point, he is stopping to listen to some Bach and no longer finds the same feeling in it with Sarah's inability to hear and appreciate it. She asks him to show her the music, and the sort of uncomfortable effort that follows is just right. You can see him as James, trying to show the emotion the music instills in him, see the self-consciousness of it as he knows how odd he looks, and see that he keeps trying it even as he knows how foolish he looks. The second is a party a friend of Sarah's invites her to, populated near-exclusively by other deaf people. The background, alienated position James takes, the sighing and shrugging is just right for that kind of feeling of exclusion.

There are two things this film is criticized for, and the first I think is lunacy. The score I was actually quite keen on from the outset, mostly synthetic strings, ebbing and flowing as if water, generally holding in an overall area of tone and pitch, wafting back and forth between. I didn't feel any dating to it, and despite my love for the decade, I am well aware of that feeling (some of the other music, of course, was definitely dated, but that's appropriate in the context of a party in a school set at that time). The other criticism is levelled at the decision to have Leeds repeat aloud (almost) everything that Sarah signs to him. Some feel (like my old conceptual nemesis Ebert) that it would have been better subtitled. Honestly, I did expect that, but felt it would push the film into the snobbery I referened as the alternative to overblown afternoon special. It feels natural (more impressiveness from Hurt for me) and real, and is mentioned in passing as having legitimate reason. I don't think subtitles would have worked correctly. I liked how it turned out and enjoyed it quite thoroughly. I prefer stage dramas that are really turned into movies, and you have to remove dialogue from scenes and place it somewhere else in your head to see how it would have worked on stage. Simply putting it into real places instead of sets (or into more realistic sets, at least) is often obvious if the blocking ends up similar and doesn't feel as right as it does on a stage. I also like my romances to be lacking in beat-you-over-the-head conflicts, which certainly this could have been (again, see "overblown afternoon special") but it comes out intelligent and perceptive, showing us Sarah's world at least through James' eyes, even if we can't truly experience it through hers.
June 29, 2007
Love Marlee Matlin in her first major movie and her ability to bridge the gaps between the hearing and the deaf world. If you love sign language and drama/love stories this is a great one.
June 16, 2007
This is a heart-wrenching drama that anyone can relate to. and it might make you appreciate what you have in your life more after seeing it.
½ March 12, 2007
marlee starred in Children of the lesser GOD is very Excellent challange how hearing and deaf couple relationship works
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