Children of a Lesser God - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

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.
December 28, 2014
Why, instead of using subtitles, does the main character regurgitate everything that is said through sign language? Do they not think that dumb hearing people can read? Bad acting, check. Completely contrived and insulting love story, check. Formula, check. Stale 80s aesthetic, check. What do you guys like about this movie?
½ January 23, 2012
I wasn't dissapointed. It really is a powerful and moving story. If you don't know any ASL, it's not an excuse because the writing cleverly slips the meanings into the dialogue, and Marlee Matlin is so fantastic, you get the general gist of what she is saying through her dynamic movements and facial expressions. You still have to pay attention to keep up, I found myself getting lost once or twice. The story itself can be somewhat slow at times, and there were a few times where the characters made such drastic changes and U-turns that I was like "shmeh, would they really do that?" But overall, a slightly older movie that is worth seeing :)
½ September 27, 2011
One of my favorite movies and a unique love story. Marlee Matlin remains the youngest winner of a best actress Oscar for this movie, an award that was richly deserved. Took of a half star for the constant oral translation of signing that got a little annoying. Would have been better with subtitles.
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 .
August 6, 2011
I'm sounding crass on purpose:

some chick gets raped in the basement and they write a Broadway play about it . . . the movie is soon to follow.

it must be dated by now, but I enjoyed it.
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.
½ July 8, 2010
While not bad, I'd like to see a purely visual sign-language story. Performances here are good, but William Hurt is largely hurt from having to say nearly everything Marlee Martin's character signs, when the gist of what is being said is communicated in her superb body language. The story is kind of slow and hokey at times, but when it's neither, it entertains.
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 4, 2010
Children of a Lesser God is one of those movies that doesn't try particularly hard to make a compelling audio and visual presentation out of a narrative whose themes and premises have more than enough staying power on their own. In this sense, Children of a Lesser God IS a bad movie. The narrative arc is cliche, the characters are overall disengaged, the sound design is plain bad, and the cinematography is unspectacular.

Children of a Lesser God excels, however, at telling a story that deals with one of the most complicated aspects of human communication and connection. Not only does it isolate this key problem within the human experience, but also lays it out in such a way that can be easily understood by all audiences. Whether this is a result of the source material being good or not, I don't know. What I do know is that this film utilizes a character conflict unlike any other in popular cinema.

When a character in a movie loses their lover it's almost always because of some action that character did or did not take. Hurt's character, however, loses his lover because he is PHYSICALLY UNABLE to understand what her life is like. Films that address things that are either taken for granted or not addressed in popular culture (like how a hearing person could possibly love and live with a deaf person) have a special place in the hearts of their audiences.

So, in a nutshell, this is a bad movie. Although it's incredibly well-acted, there is nothing spectacular about the medium chosen. The idea behind the film's inception, however, is one of the most moving dynamics on film... Especially if you're a sucker for the existential.
November 16, 2009
What was a harder-hitting play gets softened up for Hollywood, but Children of A Lesser God is still worth a sit-thru. William Hurt and Marlee Matlin are terrific (Matlin won the Best Actress Oscar).
September 26, 2009
Not in Silence, Just in Sound

I have silence issues. They are deep and long-standing, and I don't know what I'd do if I went deaf. Go crazier, I rather suspect. However, having gone to look at what he says about it, Roger Ebert is right. Again. This movie is never silent. Despite the whole, you know, point of the movie, we spend the whole movie bathed in sound. There's a lot of very bad music all over the place. The decision was made to have not subtitles but the hearing characters repeating everything the deaf characters say. There are places in the story where I think total silence would be more appropriate, places where the hearing character, for example, is out of place. Places where we are supposed to be sympathizing more with the deaf characters. The total silence would be difficult for me; it's half of why I watch so many movies, just for the pure sound of them. However, it would have been right over and over again, and instead, we just get the world of sound, even though the movie is supposed to be about both worlds.

James Leeds (William Hurt) has come to somewhere-or-another, I'm pretty sure New England (filmed in New Brunswick, not that that necessarily means anything), to work at a school for the deaf as a speech teacher. He has the requisite group of wacky students, none completely deaf but all severely hearing-impaired enough to end up at the school. He teaches them through personal charisma, questions that involve their own lives, and the aforementioned bad music. (Even mentioned as such by one of the parents.) He also becomes intrigued by the lovely and fiery Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin), a former student at the school who now, at the age of twenty-five, works as a janitor. She was brilliant, but she has never done anything with it. She does not speak; she has never read lips. She is deaf from birth, and she has cut off contact with her family. Naturally, this makes her fascinating to him, and she is awfully beautiful, and they end up in a relationship made stormy by the fact that they come from different worlds.

See, here's the thing. They actually seriously considered a whole bunch of hearing actresses before settling on one who was actually deaf. (Well, she has 20% hearing in one ear.) Deaf people can, thanks to the "accent," pretty much only play deaf people, and they wanted to give the role to Heather freakin' Locklear. I have a lot of problems with this movie, not least that I think they're making deafness into a gimmick, but how much more so had they given the role to, dear Gods, Sarah Jessica Parker. I mean, no, Sarah is not so much with the speaking, but still. For one thing, I'm not sure a hearing actress could have the beautiful quality of her stillness. It's not just that she herself is beautiful, though I was struck by it over and over in the movie. Brooke Shields could have done beautiful. (Sarah Jessica Parker couldn't have, but she was closer then.) Gods know Jodie Foster could have acted the part with half her talent behind her back. But when Sarah's hands are still, there is something to Marlee Matlin that just pulls you in anyway. You are waiting for them to start.

On the other hand, this is, as I said before, a gimmick movie. It's the love between a Normal Person and a Different Person. He is Torn Between Two Worlds. And so on and so forth. We've seen this story before. We see it even now. It's intended to be all heartwarming, and the better versions of the story, which this one is, we actually get some depth to things. But this one doesn't want to tell us anything about who Sarah really is, either. Okay, she was a slut when she was younger so that she could have some contact--it's something she could do as well as or better than hearing girls. But what does she want from life? What is she good at? Who is she, in herself? We never really get it. Sure, she may not, either, but even at the end, she is Deaf Girl.

Of course, the filmmakers did, in the end, choose better than they probably knew--Marlee Matlin is the youngest woman to win Best Actress. There aren't a hell of a lot of disabled people to have won Oscars; there's Harold Russell (in my head, "the Guy With the Hands," though the important thing is that he didn't) and that's pretty much it. There also aren't many people (though of course the Guy With the Hands is one of them) to have won for their debut performances. Yeah, okay, I figure it must have been a bad year for Supporting Actress performances for Piper Laurie to have been nominated for this small, simple role, but Marlee Matlin? Yeah, all over that. It doesn't even matter that she is not reliably saying what William Hurt translates for her. In fact, the fact that she's talking about something else entirely almost makes it better. I wouldn't know that if I hadn't read it elsewhere, if people who actually know Amslan hadn't mentioned it. I'm told it's pretty funny, should you know what's going on.
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