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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.


Randa Haines


Mark Medoff (stage play), Hesper Anderson (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Hurt ... James
Marlee Matlin ... Sarah
Piper Laurie ... Mrs. Norman
Philip Bosco ... Dr. Curtis Franklin
Allison Gompf Allison Gompf ... Lydia
John F. Cleary John F. Cleary ... Johnny
Philip Holmes Philip Holmes ... Glen
Georgia Ann Cline Georgia Ann Cline ... Cheryl
William D. Byrd William D. Byrd ... Danny
Frank Carter Jr. Frank Carter Jr. ... Tony
John Limnidis John Limnidis ... William
Bob Hiltermann ... Orin
E. Katherine Kerr ... Mary Lee Ochs
John Basinger John Basinger ... Alan Jones
Barry Magnani 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:

View content advisory »




Release Date:

31 October 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Te amaré en silencio See more »


Box Office


$10,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

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

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In an interview with the New York Daily News, actress Marlee Matlin said: "I guess I have a Zorba spirit because I like being free and doing what I want. I used to be a very angry deaf person, like Sarah in Children Of A Lesser God...I even wrote a letter to President Ford asking why he didn't have closed captions for his TV speeches. He didn't answer". See more »


The DVD back lists a main character as "John" Leeds, when the name should be "JAMES" Leeds. 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...
See more »


You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me
by Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal & Pierre Norman
See more »

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User Reviews

A beautiful movie about love
20 June 2014 | by MaziunSee all my reviews

"Children of lesser god" is an unique movie. It was the first film directed by a woman (Randa Haines) to be Oscar nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Marlee Matlin is the youngest ever winner of a Best Actress Oscar. Matlin is also one of only four actresses to win the Best Actress Oscar for a debut film performance. The movie is one if the few movies about people with hearing problems and deafness. The film was the first major motion picture since the 1926 silent film You'd Be Surprised to cast a deaf / hearing impaired actor in a major role. Marlee Matlin has only one spoken line in English during the entire film. The rest of her performance is in American Sign Language.

The movie is based on critically acclaimed Broadway stage play that was very popular. The playwright Mark Medoff also wrote the screenplay for this movie. The film and source play's "Children of a Lesser God" title is derived from the twelfth chapter of Alfred Lord Tennysons "Idylls of the King" cycle of twelve narrative poems.

The screenplay is both simple and complex. Hollywood is full of love stories where there isn't really no humor and the drama feels forced. Here it all feels real. It feels like real life. The characters are well written and the conflicts the face are completely natural and believable. It's interesting that the movie starts like one of those movies about inspiring teacher , but slowly turns into wonderful melodrama. There are many scenes involving Hurt's work with the deaf children and they are good , but it's the love story that counts the most. The screenplay rightfully deserved the Oscar nominee.

The chemistry between Hurt and Matlin is brilliant. It's not strange , because they really felt in love with each other while making "COLG". They even lived together for few months after movie was finished and it's a sad thing that it didn't last. When you watch the movie you can see perhaps the most authentic romance I've ever seen in cinema.

Marlee Matlin is spectacular in here. You could say it's a kind of cheat for deaf person to play def person. It doesn't change the fact that she is wonderful . I've never thought that a sound of hand clapping other hand might be chilling (watch the movie – you will know what scene I'm talking about). Matlin is able to say so much with her hands or face . The only time she speaks it's truly heartbreaking.

William Hurt is in the shadow of Matlin , since he got the less interesting role. Still , he is great. He always was a master of subtlety and this movie is no exception. His character also changes and suffers during the movie. His also one of the best inspirational teachers in history of cinema.

Piper Laurie has not too much screen time , but beautifully makes a complex character of Sarah's mother. In hands of less skilled actress it would be a cliché character and trivial performance . Laurie gives the audience a character who isn't black or white and quite possible the one they could relate to the most.

The movie is very well directed by Randa Haines , which is surprising since it's her movie debut. Yet she never allows the movie to be too sentimental or manipulative with the viewer's emotions. The mix of humor and drama is perfect. The movie is also quite well photographed, the beauty of New Brunswick coast makes you wanna go there.

Some people are complaining that the movie is too noisy for a film about deafness , that there aren't any scenes that use silence. I don't really see a need for that. The use of sign language feels natural here. The subtitles would be distracting in my opinion. The movie does justice to deaf people portraying them as real people with ambitions , passions and desires , not like poor cripples.

This is a beautiful movie about acceptance , finding yourself and emotional growth. This is what love should be. Find out if the world of sound and world of silence can meet. I give it 9/10.

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