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Children of a Lesser God
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Reviews & Ratings for
Children of a Lesser God More at IMDbPro »

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Well-Acted Drama Carries the Faint Aroma of After School Special

6/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
6 May 2008

Solid if unremarkable screen version of the Broadway play, starring Marlee Matlin before anyone knew who she was and William Hurt at the height of his mid-1980s popularity.

The film is sensitive and well-acted, but it never completely sheds its stage origins, and it has that faint whiff of school assembly lecture that many movies preaching tolerance for minority groups have. Matlin delivers a brave performance in her screen debut as a deaf student who falls in love with a professor; Hurt is said professor and delivers what he's asked to.

Also with Piper Laurie as Matlin's over-protective mother.

Grade: B+

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A great film for adults

10/10
Author: patwin55-1 from United States
20 September 2007

Those who have read my reviews before know that I very seldom watch R rated movies, but this is a real gem. I caught Children of a Lesser God on late-night TV last night (well, it was late for me) and loved every minute of it. I had seen an edited TV version before, but did not appreciate the humor, beauty and complexity of the film at that time. I laughed out loud, not chuckles but real laughs, in many places. This, and the Bach violin concertos featured, actually caused my long-suffering husband to leave our bed and try to sleep in the living room until the movie was over. Jim Leeds, portrayed by William Hurt, begins teaching speech and language at a residential facility for deaf children. Jim's teaching methods are effective, but unorthodox. I have to admire any teacher who allows an older teen student to call him disgusting names to his face, as long as the words are pronounced correctly. He is immediately intrigued by beautiful Sarah, played by Marlee Matlin, a witty and prickly alumnus who works as a cleaning woman at the school. They become lovers, but their relationship is marred by expectations on both sides. Jim really is all about sound. The posters in his tiny home all feature musicians or musical instruments. He loves the music of Bach passionately. His career is about bringing speech to non-speakers. Sarah is totally deaf and revels in her silence. She rejects any effort to get her to speak, and the viewer is shown the reasons for this. In the only scene where she makes sound, the result is devastating. Piper Laurie portrays Sarah's mother in a brilliantly understated performance that quietly brings out all the pain of their relationship. William Hurt translates most of the signed language by speaking out loud when he signs or is signed to. This causes the scenes when he does not do this to give the viewer a sense of being shut out, and is very effective. The scenes in the school pool are beautifully sensual. As a hearing speaker in love with a deaf non-speaker, Jim makes promises he can't keep. Sarah, in spite of her tough demeanor, is actually very fragile. My only regret about this movie is that I tuned in five minutes too late to record it, and that I saw it with the volume low in a dark bedroom on a TV without the capacity for closed-captioning. If I had been more alert I could have recorded it anyway and watched it on the closed-captioned TV later, but I don't think things through very well after 10:00 p.m. I highly recommend this film for any adult that will not be offended by the frank, earthy language and nudity, which are essential to the film.

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..negative comments aside, a brilliant movie..

10/10
Author: fimimix from United States
20 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...this movie deserves a 20......

I had heard the title, but nothing about its story. I actually had just written a comment for "The Mriacle Worker" and ran across the title of "Children of a Lesser God". I'm not sure what is meant by that; a catchy title, I guess. Although both films are about deafness, they are entirely different stories. I write as a brother to a deaf-mute. I never learned to sign; he could hear with aids, but preferred not to. I felt he was totally happy with his wife and normal child; he was very intelligent and worked steadily at high-skilled jobs. So, I viewed "Children" in a different light.

I forgot that Marlee Matlin ("Sarah Norman") was deaf-mute, until the end of the picture. I thought she was stellar in her role, deaf or not. I DO recall the sensation created when she won her Oscar. To me, she portrayed the disillusionment and anger of being pampered by some and rejected by others. I also understood she used sex as a way to explain to men that she was a real woman. Director Randa Haines was very clever to show that deaf-mutes work at regular jobs, and support themselves very well.

William Hurt ("James Leeds") certainly deserved an Oscar, too. His role as a teacher in a school for deaf-mutes was brilliant. His putting "Sarah's" signing into words seemed to be completely natural. This role is another jewel in a wonderful career.

Some comments posted here reveal how uncaring and cynical some people can be. I agree it was clear where this touching-but-difficult love-story was going; it is a lesson in compassion, showing a realization we are ALL different in many ways, learning to cope the best we can. The school's students certainly showed their joy for life.

I thought there were far too many sex-scenes in this movie, but that's how life really is. Congratulations to all who anything to do with this film - I agree that it should be seen by everyone. Double bravo !

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Hurt and Matlin as teacher and student

8/10
Author: goya-4 from PA USA
29 March 2001

William Hurt stars as a teacher in a school for the deaf who falls for a troublesome student (matlin in her debut). A very well done drama, beautifully written and photographed. Nominated for best picture On a scale of one to ten.. 8

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It's the screenwriters, not God

5/10
Author: leoperu from Czech Republic
16 March 2013

Two is more than one. Three is more than two ; etc., ad lib. Such is the mathematics of director Haines' dramaturgical use of clichés in "Children of a Lesser God", an agreeable but insignificant romantic dramedy that pretends to be more grave than it is. Marlee Matlin - looking beautiful and acting convincingly - presents one of the strongest elements here ; others are Canada in autumn and Bach's strings. Yet the director with her screenwriters and cast (especially John Hurt in the lead) seem to be concerned more about (American mainstream) audience than about the deaf. That's why they often confuse realism and sentimentality ; their urge to translate every single sign language "speech", too, results in a disputable compromise with reality. More discerning viewers would likely prefer some tougher, enduring bite, for example the documentary "Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit", in which the German director Werner Herzog makes (almost) no compromises at all.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, but very flawed

6/10
Author: itamarscomix from Israel
5 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Children of a Lesser God is worth watching, if for nothing else, for Marlee Matlin's star-making, Oscar-winning performance. She's really so good that she managed to draw me into the movie and enjoy it without noticing all the flaws and problems - those came rushing at me a couple of hours after finishing it.

To be fair, even when Matlin isn't on screen, it's a beautiful movie, well-shot, well-made and very enjoyable, and very effective emotionally. But it uses every trick in the Hollywood book to manipulate the audience, while undermining its own flawed message at every turn.

Front and center to all these problems is William Hurt's character. Despite Hurt's best efforts, James comes off as weak and inconsistent. When he's working as a speech teacher, he's shown to be charismatic and talented, playing up the full "Dead Poets' Society" prototype of the teacher with unorthodox methods who is disliked by the administration but loved by his students. And yet, whenever he's with Sarah (Matlin), he's weak-minded, babbling and insensitive.

That serves to present him as condescending and irrational and make the viewer take Sarah's side on every argument, despite the fact that James, well, makes some pretty good points, and Sarah does her best to make things as complicated and melodramatic as possible at every turn, pick fights when there's no need for one, then back off at the last minute for no apparent reason. The whole thing feels like a rather cheap ploy to manipulate and guilt the viewer into taking he side he normally wouldn't; it also makes the romance between the two feel unconvincing and shallow from the very start. It's made worse by a sloppy ending, which makes us feel all warm inside while completely avoiding every issue raised throughout the movie.

The only reason I'm ranting so much about the movie is that I enjoyed it. A movie that should have been good but has some very basic but major flaws is more annoying than a bad movie. Keeping all that in mind, though, I still recommend Children of a Lesser God as a beautiful, enjoyable drama, that tells an interesting story and is intriguing enough to actually provoke discussion.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

All the Lord's Children ***1/2

8/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
16 February 2007

Marlee Matlin's Oscar winning performance highlights this very good 1986 film.

As a deaf mute, angry and frustrated with her life in silence, Matlin takes a job as a janitor in the School for the Deaf that she attended.

The school is run by Philip Bosco, a savvy educator who really doesn't want to rock the boat. The latter could have been rocked by the coming of idealistic speech teacher William Hurt. Hurt gives a knockout Oscar nominated performance as he battles with Matlin along the way as the two fall in love with each other.

As her estranged mother, Piper Laurie is convincing in a frustrated role that earned her a second best supporting actress nomination.

The haunting musical score sets the tone for a marvelous film. It is interesting to see how Hurt works with deaf youngsters. The AFT should have considered giving him their teacher of the year award.

The Motion Picture Academy seems to have a fetish for people with disabilities. Jane Wyman and John Mills joined Matlin in winning Oscars as deaf mutes. It is Matlin's performance though that deals with the subject of deafness itself without other incidentals.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A nice film that touches the surface but not the core

Author: pbhowmick from California
26 February 2001

This could have been a fine film if it didn't have such a predictable plot and touches issues on its surface instead of dealing with them firmly. The movie starts out with Hurts entry into the school for deaf, as expected the students aren't going to accept him so easily. But with his jokes and rather un-orthodox way of teaching, he wins over the 'ever-so reluctant to give in' students right away. That done, he encouters Martin, the grumpy deaf girl, who has secluded herself from the hearing world by choice. He knows he has to help her out right away. So they meet and as expected the first meeting is a tango between the 2. And the movie races on with its frantic pace, without intending to pause for a while to develop the sub-plots, to explore the world of deaf people and delve more into the relationship between a hearing man and a deaf woman. The relationship between Hurt and Martin is more specific, as Martin is not just a deaf girl trying to lead a normal life. Her past traumas, her painful experiences with hearing men has made her so in-penetratable. This could have happened to any girl. Its just a coincidence that she's deaf. The relationship has been shown through the eyes of Hurt, so its more about his struggle to penetrate through the shell that Martin has created to to protect herself from the cruel hearing world. Even Martin's words are spoken by Hurt, though this was more of a tehcnical issue as you don't expect the audience to learn sign language before watching the film, I felt there were opportunities where her eyes, her gestures could have spoken the words more dynamically than Hurt's words. Someone suggested the use of subtitles but I think we didn't need subtitles either. I think her eyes and Hurt's reaction could have told a more stunning tale. But all said, both Hurt and Martin give memorable preformances. Hurt has this ability to look genuine and sincere in whatever he does, and in this movie it helps him a lot. I didn't know that Martin is a deaf in real life, that would have made her task even more challenging. I feel she deserves the Oscar she got for this role of hers.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Melodramatic

7/10
Author: JoshtheGiant from United States
2 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Children of a Lesser God is one of the most melodramatic and sappy films I have personally ever seen. But it also has two of the greatest performances I have ever seen so I really have to recommend it. The plot is very flawed and has it's little holes but works in a way mostly because of the actors. The screenplay is also helped enormously by the actors who make the wooden dialog seem almost good. The direction is flawed in a very similar way, but he at least has some idea of where to put the camera and the actors. The Art Direction is amazing as is the score but now I will get to the really good part of the movie. The performances. William Hurt is one of the greatest actors to live and although this is not his greatest performance it is very, very close and still truly amazing. Marlee Matlin is also amazing as the deaf woman he falls in love with. Her character is disabled in tow big ways. Being deaf of course but also the worse of the two. Her disability to care for herself and think life is worth it and all that jazz, the usual cliché. But she does it perfectly.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Well-acted fluff.

4/10
Author: Rockwell_Cronenberg from United States
6 March 2012

Children of a Lesser God is the kind of thing that the Academy Awards go for in spades; uplifting story about a socially relevant issue with the typical rise-fall-rise structure all built around a romance between two attractive leads. It's fluff (he's a school teacher for deaf kids) that only occasionally dips into the wealth of importance that it's themes consist of, but with all of that being said I still didn't mind it too much. It panders a lot, the whole structure of having William Hurt verbally speak every piece of dialogue that him and Marlee Matlin were signing to each other in order for the audience to understand got pretty distracting, but it was still a relatively easy viewing with some fine acting.

Matlin won an Oscar for her role, which makes sense, but the character was too much of a type for me and rigidly stayed in that location of "I'm a deaf girl and I hate you because you pity me even though you don't but I hate the world" for pretty much the entire thing and I always have a problem with characters like that. She was impressive in her breakdown scene, but otherwise I wasn't too high on the performance. Piper Laurie got a Supporting Actress nomination for her performance as Matlin's mother, which makes absolutely no sense since she didn't do anything.

The only one who left much of an impression on me was Hurt, which isn't very surprising since I think he's one of the best actors we've ever had. His portrayal is instantly likable and the film is at it's most engaging whenever he's on screen, but the real treat is the later scenes where he's able to bring much more depth and humanity to his character. This is a role that could have easily been the charming and morally righteous savior for the deaf janitor and kids, but instead Hurt is able to turn him (along with the script) into a fleshed-out character with his own share of flaws. I can't say that I hated the movie, despite it's several shortcomings, but it's definitely not something I'm going to remember at all.

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