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Children of a Lesser God (1986)

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A new speech teacher at a school for the deaf falls in love with the janitor, a deaf woman speechless by choice.



(stage play), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Norman
Allison Gompf ...
John F. Cleary ...
Philip Holmes ...
Georgia Ann Cline ...
William D. Byrd ...
Frank Carter Jr. ...
John Limnidis ...
Mary Lee Ochs
John Basinger ...
Alan Jones
Barry Magnani ...
Tom Schuyler


James is a new speech teacher at a school for the deaf. He falls for Sarah, a pupil who decided to stay on at the school rather than venture into the big bad world. She shuns him at first, refusing to read his lips and only using signs. Will her feelings change over time? Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A love beyond words. See more »


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

31 October 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Te amaré en silencio  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,909,084, 5 October 1986, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 13th September 1986. See more »


Multiple cars had the license tag "3952" -- a blue Ford and a brown Pontiac. See more »


[first lines]
Dr. Curtis Franklin: This is the most amazing résumé I've ever seen.
James Leeds: I've been with some really good schools. The best.
Dr. Curtis Franklin: All of them. All of the best. One right after another. You've also been with the Lucky Erin Bar and Grill.
James Leeds: Pittsburgh. Bartender.
Dr. Curtis Franklin: And a disc jockey.
James Leeds: Yeah, that was in Oklahoma. I used to broadcast in sign language.
Dr. Curtis Franklin: You've covered all the map, Mr. Leeds.
James Leeds: I've got a lot of energy.
Dr. Curtis Franklin: I'm sure you do have a lot of energy and a lot of new ideas. I did too when...
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Featured in The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998) See more »


You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me
by Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal & Pierre Norman
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User Reviews

A film about hearing oppression of Deafness
6 November 1999 | by See all my reviews

William Hurt plays a speech therapist, James Leeds, a gifted teacher. His success in his field has not prevented him from being an egotist, anddisrespecting other cultures.

Marlee Matlin plays a Deaf woman, Sarah Lee, who's damaging family experience has caused her to become so angry that even though she is an intelligent, sassy, sensual, independent woman, she prefers to mop floors in her old school.

Sarah is contrasted with the other Deaf people who are working on their speech. Although he signs, James is highly dogmatic about the primary necessity of speech. The other Deaf people come across as disabled in comparison, their speech flawed compared to Sarah's eloquent and expressive signing. Their vocabulary is basic; in one scene their attempt at signing delights the hearing audience as they imagine the Deaf kids getting closer to being "normal".

James falls in love with Sarah's strong and commanding personality, but paradoxically still treats her in a patronising way, aiming to "improve" her by working on her speech. It becomes a battle of wills between them as Sarah seeks to have autonomy over her preferred medium of communication.

Even so, the dynamic of the relationship spurs Sarah on beyond the narrow horizons of her menial job.

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