Sweet Nothing in My Ear (TV Movie 2008) Poster

(2008 TV Movie)

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Very good job, teaches a lot about deaf culture
vchimpanzee22 April 2008
Adam is eight years old. He gradually lost his hearing when he was four, and he has not spoken in years. His father Dan is in public relations and about to be promoted to vice president, and his mother Laura, who is deaf, teaches math at a school for the deaf.

The movie begins in a courtroom. We later learn the parents are in court to determine who will get custody of Adam. Through flashbacks we learn what led to the dispute. After an introduction to the world Adam and his mother live in--a performance of "The Wizard of Oz" at their school, with parents applauding differently than those of us who hear would--Adam has an accident while playing outside and ends up in the emergency room. The doctor informs Dan that Adam might be a candidate for a cochlear implant, which would give him some hearing.

Laura resists the idea of letting Adam hear. She does not consider herself disabled, and unlike Adam, she has no memory of actually hearing. Laura and her parents--also deaf--accept the way they are and have no desire to change, and they don't like the idea of Adam being alienated from them. They don't even like it when he starts speaking instead of using sign language like they do.

Reluctantly, Laura goes along with the idea of investigating the procedure for Adam. But she never really accepts the idea, and the dispute eventually threatens the couple's future together.

I had a hard time understanding what was going on. Marlee Matlin cannot talk like people who can hear, and yet her words are spoken perfectly. I later realized, when her character was signing but not talking as the couple ate with hearing friends, that we were hearing an "interpreter for the hearing." I suppose that was better than having subtitles, which I prefer not to have to read. But the actress who speaks Laura's words has the stiffness characteristic of celebrities or experts playing themselves, at least at first. The interpreters for Noah Valencia (Adam), and Ed Waterstreet and Phyllis Frelich (Laura's parents), do a much better job.

Matlin herself does a fine job. I have to evaluate her on her facial expressions, and she has such a pretty face to look at anyway. Noah speaks a couple of times and does a very good job; after researching the movie I found he is actually deaf, as are Waterstreet and Frelich, who also do well. Waterstreet particularly excels in communicating the pain Laura's father feels about the prejudice the hearing world seems to feel toward his culture, the pain of feeling like this might hurt his relationship with Adam if Adam can hear.

Jeff Daniels also does a good job, and so do the actors playing the lawyers for both sides, and the judge. There is a hearing-impaired psychologist whose voice we actually hear; she talks like Matlin does but enunciates quite well. Notice I said hearing-impaired: when the term "deaf" is used in this movie, it refers to those who have no hearing at all.

The movie teaches a lot about how the deaf regard their culture, a lot I didn't know. I would have assumed people would want to improve their situation if they could. But this movie presents the point of view that the deaf don't want to be "cured." They have ways of compensating for what they can't find out in the ways that we who hear can. They can do anything, this movie tells us. I don't know that I would agree, but I certainly have a better understanding now.

The fact that interpreters rather than subtitles were used means a person would not have to know how to read to watch this movie. So that brings up this point: is it appropriate for kids? There's nothing offensive about it, though the themes and discussions are a little intense. Perhaps older children can watch it. Kids Adam's age could probably watch it.
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a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing--so to speak
dallas_viewer20 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers

Did I just watch "Children of a Lesser God - Part Deux"? Because I could have sworn I saw a very similar theme when I saw CoaLG 20 years ago. Only then (mid-1980s) it was about the idea of "talking", rather than cochlear implants, which were still being developed and tested at that time. But it was still kind of the same movie, only 20 years later. And guess who the deaf woman was in CoaLG? Yep--Marlee Matlin.

Anyway, regarding tonight's offering...Nothing we haven't seen before. A number of movies and TV series episodes in recent years have been devoted to the issue of cochlear implants, and they covered pretty much the same ground shown tonight.

I watched the movie anyway, knowing early on that Hallmark would never be so politically incorrect as to choose a side. I knew that we would never find out if Adam got the implant, or how well it did or didn't work out for him.

Unfortunately, in not picking a side--in an effort to give us as "happy" an ending as possible while not offending any viewers in the pro- or anti-cochlear implant camps--Hallmark drained the movie of whatever impact it might have had on viewers like me.

In fact, I find it highly unsatisfying to lay this enormous issue (of a family divided over the idea of a cochlear implant) on the table and then to cop out at the end by suggesting that "love will find a way". Come on--does anyone really think that the husband won't end up resentful in some way if the son does not have a cochlear implant? Are we supposed to believe that all will be well because apparently the mother and father are "BFFs" (Best Friends Forever)?

I found it interesting that at no time did we get to hear Adam's feelings on getting a CI or on "hearing again". I wonder if, in real life, they don't ask this question of a child who heard previously. Isn't there supposed to be a psychological evaluation of the *child* and his needs as part of the CI candidate selection process?

I'm not suggesting that an 8-year-old knows what's best for himself or should be the decision maker here. It's just that we know that Adam no longer speaks, and usually refuses to when asked. Is it because he can't hear himself talk any more,there's no longer that auditory feedback, and it's all strange, confusing, and somewhat stressful, so he doesn't try? Or is it that when he tried to talk after losing his hearing, his speech deteriorated, and folks looked at him funny, or asked him to repeat, or teased him, or didn't understand him, so that it no longer seemed worthwhile to try talking? If any of these things are true, are they not worthy of consideration in choosing whether or not to go with a cochlear implant?

(I also wondered if another thing contributing to Adam's reluctance to speak was that his school was primarily a signing school. Why bother to try speaking when it's safer and easier to sign? Where's the motivation to really try to develop the desire to talk and to really improve one's speech skills, if everyone's signing? And what does this attitude portend about Adam's future opportunities in a predominantly hearing/speaking world?)

Also - Marlee Matlin's character was too confusing for me at times. For example, she learns that her own parents had chosen not to give her hearing aids as a child. They had taken away from her the option of developing any sort of residual hearing. When she finds this out, she is highly upset. Yet the next thing we know, she doing the same thing to her child--remove a choice that might allow the child to have an easier time of negotiating the hearing world. Why? Whatever she was selling, I wasn't buying it, so to speak.

The interesting thing is that, while Hallmark seemed to be attempting to be "fair and balanced"--and make no final judgment--I found that as the pros and cons of the situation unfolded, the case seemed to favor cochlear implantation. I thought there was relatively little negative said about the CI. (Of course, I come from a hearing perspective.)

On the other hand, we learned that the deaf father had gone through life bullied, struggling, etc., for being deaf. We also learned that a significant number of deaf adults are likely to do poorly in school (not because they themselves are innately poor learners, BTW, but for other reasons) or require government assistance. Adam's mother has to rely on the father to interpret for her everywhere, because she has limited ability to speak or understand spoken English.

So the final message to me seemed to be that the chief benefit of *not* having a cochlear implant is that it reinforces for the deaf child that it's okay to be deaf--there's nothing that needs fixing. And that's a worthy message, certainly.

But it seems to me to be a pretty weak argument, when pitted against the "pro CI" benefits, which include more social and job opportunity, and less likelihood of isolation, struggle, etc. And I suspect that there are ways to introduce a child to a CI without implying that the child is "broken" or unworthy and needs "fixing" in order to be acceptable.

I can see situations where one might reject the idea of a CI - both parents are deaf and the family all signs and is functioning fine, or maybe there are medical or other reasons that make the child a poor candidate for a CI. But that was not the case in this movie.
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Lisa Rodrigues20 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Marlee Maitlen is a beautiful and talented actress. I hate that the deaf community gets mad when she speaks in movies. I personally think she is sexy beyond words and especially love her in "The L Word." I understand that she didn't speak in this one because of the controversy of cochlear implants, BUT... having a cheesy voice-over every time she or any other deaf person spoke was INSULTING! If they had been speaking a foreign language it would have been subtitled, not voiced-over.

Hallmark missed the opportunity to realistically present this story. Instead of keeping it real, they "dummied it down" for the hearing world.
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Well done in perspective
newton-3621 April 2008
I feel the movie represented the Deaf and Cochlear Implant cultures pretty much in perspective. I myself had an overwhelming decision two years ago to decide of I really wanted a CI myself. I came to terms in my choices and possibilities, even tho, I lost my hearing at an early age of 3, than a year later in my other ear.

Marlee is a great Actress, she's done things well and the work she performs in movies and television today.

Sweet Nothings In My Ear - tells the story of many deaf and hard of hearing in today's world where technology can replace one's hearing to almost normalcy as it can be. In the past year since my own surgery, I've become accustomed to sounds I remember hearing as a child, my life changed forever, once I told my audiologist to flip the switch on the computer to turn the processor on - 40 years of amazement filled not only mine, but my mother's eyes with tears of a flowing river you've not seen in many years of life.

I still have the residual hearing in my left ear today, I lost all the remaining hearing I had in my right ear, over 10 years ago and I never wore a hearing aid again in that ear, until I had my Cochlear Implant surgery last year and the rest is history in the making. I'm able to hear sounds I've not been able to hear for over 35 to 40 years at such normal ranges of hearing.

The CI itself almost restores one's hearing, but this is as close to what it can get technology-wise to restore one's hearing in a pinch.

Each person that has had the surgery either has an amazing story to tell after years of being silenced by sounds of the past. If it ain't been for my late grandfather's efforts to try to get my hearing restored as I was younger, he'd probably agree with me today, that history was in the making in our family.

The story is powerful enough to compile what families go through wanting them to what's best for their own children, even tho, they may not be at an age to understand what a Cochlear Implant can do, but the benefits are there, as for other's its either a wait and see process for them.

I believe, one day, science will be able to restore one's hearing without the benefits of a cochlear implant - its only a matter of time, when it will happen in the future.
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Sounds of silence
jotix10014 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
An important look at the world of deafness that is seldom seen on television is the work of Stephen Sachs, whose play he adapted for the small screen, and directed by Joseph Sargent. The creators take us to a situation not often seen on television.

This is a small project by all accounts, yet it takes the viewers behind the reality of people that face a hardship most of us don't know anything about, and even discrimination from ignorance. In the case of the Millers, what seems to be a happily adjusted family, the wife, Laura and the young son, Adam, live in a world where sound, as one knows it, is absent.

When young Adam is taken to a hospital to be treated from a nasty fall, the intern that takes care of the wound, suggests a cochlear procedure so the boy can hear. Dan, the father, begins to ponder on the benefits Adam would receive, but the mere thought of it triggers a confrontation with Laura, who is reluctant to have her young son submitted to an operation with what she thinks is a risk she wouldn't like to take.

That episode is what triggers a war between Dan and Laura, who decide to separate and get involved in a custody battle. At stake is what Laura perceives the loss of a culture for Adam. After all, she has lived a somewhat happy life in an loving environment with Dan. Her parents, who are deaf as well, never reveal a family secret that involves her.

This movie is a bit different from what is shown in some family oriented channels. The casting of Jeff Daniels as Dan Miller, was a stroke of luck for the people involved in the film. Mr. Daniels is a natural who is good in anything he plays. Marlee Matlin, a deaf-mute actress is appealing as Laura. The supporting cast adds another dimension to the story.

This is a film that goes where others don't dare to go.
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Unique and eye-opening drama / Very enjoyable!
SmallTownSim20 April 2008
"Sweet nothing in my ear" is the story (told in retrospect) about a hearing man, his deaf wife and his deaf son and the controversial debate over what is normal and acceptable for all involved.

To tell you the truth, I had not planned to watch this film. Just as a fluke the channel ended up on Hallmark when the program began and as it progressed I was compelled and drawn into the story of hearing and deafness and family and differences and likeness.

I was impressed and appreciative of the way it was handled... with voices being heard for those signing instead of "speaking" as they sign- true to life.

The story was freshly told in a way that allowed the viewer to see all sides of the issue of hearing versus deafness. I also frankly was mesmerized by how those who are deaf can be included and participate in so many experiences that I hadn't realized they could be included in such as going to the movies. The whole telephone set/video was so "Jetson's like" and the trivia of all of those in history who accomplished great and every-day things who were deaf.

At the same time allowing to see the side of the hearing father who mostly was immersed in the deaf world (i.e. his wife, son, in-laws...) and how it excluded him at times.

Truly, I think that if you enjoy family drama- you will enjoy this movie. If you enjoy Hallmark movies as a rule- you will enjoy this movie. If you enjoy films with emotional conflict and human struggle- you will enjoy this movie.

"Sweet nothing in my ear" is a great movie. I gave it a 9 because it not only dealt with such an issue we don't always get to see from every side and did it in a way that all sides can enjoy and appreciate.
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Wonderful movie for those who don't know or hear of issues that arise in the deaf community.
alex20 April 2008
Not usually a fan of Hallmark movies, I decided to watch this one anyways and I fell in love from the get go. I felt that this movie was brilliantly written to include all point of views and it handled touchy matters perfectly.

A overall movie shows the struggle of a deaf mother and a hearing father struggling to decide if a cochlear implant is right for their child and while the mother is against it, the father is for it. They try and see each other's views but have a hard time doing so.

Afraid that this movie would offend some viewers who had some personal experiences similar to the movie, I felt relieved to see how they wrote these matters into the story. While it may make some people ponder and feel uncomfortable, it actually puts it all out on the table and forces the viewer to see all views. It hit the target perfectly. Having an implant myself and still using ASL as my first and primary language, I actually felt comfortable rooting for both sides and hoping they would come to a perfect solution.

I will have to say kudos to this well made movie and not to mention that the cast were brilliant as well. A very well done movie. I had to give it a ten star. Very good intro to those who have no idea about issues that can arise in the deaf community. Great job.
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Well done all the way around
kawfolks21 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I half expected the ending to be just as it was, which was why I gave it a nine instead of a ten, just because I found it a bit predictable. I figured that Marlee wouldn't want to be in a movie where the character actually went through with the cochlear implant surgery, but at least it was left open for the viewer to wonder about whether or not the boy ended up having the surgery.

One thing I found interesting was that they used the "snake bite" sign for cochlear implant instead of signing "c" "i" - which some people who have chosen the CI route find offensive. I found that interesting but in no way did I find they slanted things for either side. Both sides really were equally portrayed; I could detect no bias whatsoever. The most important thing to me was ultimately displayed in this film - that this is an intensely personal decision a family must make, one that is right for them. It is not for the deaf community, or the hearing world, or a judge to decide - it is the family, and that was, to me, the message of this film.

As the parent of a child with a profound hearing loss, I appreciated the way this movie was done. Great job!
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What's with all the recent hate reviews? I loved this film!
RAAMzilla13 February 2010
I was laying in bed last night, scanning channels and came across 'Sweet Nothing in My Ear'. I hit info and up came that Jeff Daniels was starring, so I figured what the hell--five minutes and I had to see it through to the end regardless of how late at night it was.

The portrayal of deaf communication for hearing listeners is fantastic, I loved the voice-over approach because personally I find subtitles distracting and obviously not everyone who watched the film would be able to understand sign language on it's own, so I loved how they tackled that problem, it really broke the barrier, and got across exactly what the characters themselves were trying to say; deaf people are no different nor less able than hearing people!

The acting is great, I was impressed with Jeff Daniels portraying emotion over his son and wife, especially since the last time I had seen him was when he was hanging out with Jim Carrey and driving a Dog-Van!

In conclusion (to my first ever review on here, so be gentle!) I would definitely recommend checking this movie out as it's heart-warming and very eye-opening. 4/5.

Thanks for reading :)
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it's worth it.
karenizcool12 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The moment i saw the preview for this film, i was in love with it. First Marlee Matlin & Jeff Daniels (what a pair!). second, the story line highlights a topic that is not always discussed.

i'm guessing a lot of the other commments hate the voice over but i actually thought it was a good choice. i admire marlee matlin so much and i've watched a lot of her films. she can speak perfectly! however, the movie deals with deafness and it is a fact that not all deaf people use speech to communicate. having voice overs is so much better than subtitles because then the movie would be pretty much silent most of the time.

Props to Daniels because he had to learn sign language for this film.

This movie is good. the emotions are real and matlin and daniels' characters are looking for their son's best interest.

Honestly at the end of the movie, instead of leaning to one side, the issue became more than just black and white. the movie shows that the cochlear implant issue is very complicated, particularly when a young child is involved.


**** *** ** *

finally i thought the ending was safe because they really did not have a choice. cochlear implants are heatly debated to this day and they can't lean to one side. ultimately the movie gives the audience the facts & the opposing sides' point of view.
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Get An Earful of This Fabulous Film-Sweet Nothing ****
edwagreen22 April 2008
Fabulous film dealing with the problems of the deaf.

A family is almost destroyed by the conflicting parents of a deaf child. The father, who can hear, wants his son to have a cochlear implant and the mother, who is deaf, is against this.

Jeff Daniels is absolutely fantastic as the father. I have followed his career and am always amazed that this fine actor has been relegated to such miserable parts and films since playing Shirley MacLaine's ill-fated son-in-law in the memorable "Terms of Endearment."

Marlee Matlin is a terrific actress and she is in fine form as the mother.

We learn that deaf people have a culture of their own and we see how other children can be cruel to a deaf child.

Many of our deaf people wish to cling to this culture that they feel will be threatened by these implants.

This is definitely a mesmerizing film which is not to be missed.
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What do you get when you take the dialog out of a dramatic film?
nmx21 April 2008
We get nice close-ups of people's faces for minutes at a time. Every once in a while you can see a finger or hand flit by. For a film in which the standard mode of communication is American Sign Language, shouldn't you keep the signed conversation on-screen? Also, were the actors specifically directed to act deadpan? I have seen Marlee Matlin act very expressively before, so some other force must have been at work. During scenes of intense argument and emotion, even depicting a turning point for some of the characters, we have minutes of camera switches between characters' faces. No signing visible on screen. No facial expression to tell you who's angry, who's hurt, who's sympathetic, who cares.
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Deaf Treated Like Disney Dogs With Voice Over
bob-18973 May 2008
I found the following comment on a popular deaf message board run by Amy Cohen, "Deaf World As Eye See It, Bittersweet History of Sweet Nothing In My Ear" and couldn't agree more:

"The choice to voice-over the signing in the Hallmark Production reminded me of old Disney movies in which you would hear the interior monologue of what the pet dog was thinking. Really, what a poor choice on so many levels. Aside from the insult to the Deaf Community, it just didn't work dramatically at all. It was laughable and it made deaf people feel like lesser people. Wow."

What a shame. 20 years ago CBS, the same network, subtitled an episode of "Beauty and the Beast" which starred Terrylene, a deaf actress, along with nine other deaf actors. It worked wonderfully and received a lot of attention and respect for doing so. How far have we regressed since then? How did the deaf who were involved in this production allow this to happen?

The whole point of the movie is lost when the remarkable beauty of sign language, which arises out of its SILENT- VISUALITY is shamefully undercut by SOUND-VOICES and camera frames that chop off the hands. How much longer will the ignorance continue?
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