Not a film, so much as lesson. A putting-on-a-show deaf-mute tale, centered round a deaf mother with a hearing little girl and husband. Bizarrely for a movie about the deaf, its first half is marred by one of those sappy-pop-song-played-over-pretty-images interludes that punctuate lazily directed American films. And the big show, a stage production of Beauty and the Beast is completely spoken from offstage, as if the film's creators don't trust us to follow a truly mute production. Is the silent film era really that far gone? "I Love You" nods at universality by including a non-deaf mime in the play-within-the-film's team, but never completes the equation. When watching a bundle of clichés (both show film and deaf film), it's best to keep alert for anything that doesn't fit the mold. That pays off here, now and then. Touching, perhaps in some instances unique-to-the-deaf, moments do occur, mostly between the mother and daughter, between the mother and her deaf friends.
This is sticking my neck out where no one can knock me down, or at least not so I'd know, but if I belonged to this group, I think I'd rather see deaf roles in films that make as little concession as possible to deafness, even, things the correctness police would never allow, a deaf-mute villain, failure, maniac, coward, unmitigated victim, in a speaking world. Two recent films, that go not there but are excellent nonetheless, are Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men" and Jacques Audiard's "Read My Lips." I heard the LaBute film's actress interviewed probably on NPR's "Fresh Air," so, maybe unfortunately, she was a speaker playing deaf, but her acting of the sounds a deaf woman makes vocalizing are dead on. Another touchpoint, a particularly harrowing one whichever side you find yourself taking, is the doc "Sound and Fury" directed by Josh Aronson, about a deaf couple who must decide whether to allow their young daughter cochlear implants that would allow her a life in which they fear they would share too little.
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