Sound & Silence

Children of a Lesser God speaks louder than words. The title refers to people who are deaf. Based on a 1979 play, Children of a Lesser God was one of the first productions made for and starring a member of the deaf community. The 1986 film adaptation was just as successful and became the first Best Picture nominee directed by a woman. Randa Haines gives equal attention to her cast of hearing and deaf actors, but the movie is mostly from a hearing perspective. Subtitles are actually substituted for the main character translating everything out loud. The Oscar nominated screenplay couldn’t have been easy to write.

Children of a Lesser God focuses on a New England romance that blooms between a hearing man and a deaf woman with all the emotional challenges that come with it. William Hurt continues his Best Actor nominated streak by playing the unconventional speech teacher of a school for the deaf. James Leeds helps the deaf use their voices and read lips. His use of music and other ideologies clash with the school’s beautiful young custodian Sarah Norman. Sarah is mysterious, closed off, and doesn’t believe in using her voice.

Swimming naked helps her relax and sex seems to be the primary language they both understand, but there’s something deeper going on. Through her mother, we discover Sarah’s unfortunate past. This was the second time Piper Laurie was nominated for playing a difficult mother, but the Oscar ended up going to her on-screen daughter. At only 21 years old, newcomer Marlee Matlin became the youngest Best Actress winner and the first deaf person to win an Oscar. Matlin conveys so much emotion through sign, body language, and facial expressions. Children of a Lesser God was a good sign of things to come.

Children of a Lesser God

James signs with Sarah

2 thoughts on “Sound & Silence

  1. Love Marlee Matlin, she earned her Oscar win 10 times over. She paved the way for so many deaf performers and sped up the process in getting more aid to help the deaf in the coming years. Rest in Peace to William Hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

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