Children of a Lesser God | Chicago Reader

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Randa Haines's safety-first 1986 adaptation of Mark Medoff's Tony Award-winning play about a teacher at a school for the hearing impaired (William Hurt) who falls in love with an angry deaf woman (Marlee Matlin). Haines's direction does what it's supposed to, I guess, which is (1) transfer a stage property to screen with minimal cinematic involvement, (2) underline the play's messages and themes (the insensitivities of the hearing world, the rights of the hearing impaired to their own visions of reality) as heavily as possible through conventional film rhetoric (editing, framing, space-dissolving close-ups), (3) make sure none of the therapeutically certified love-me-for-myself emotionality escapes into the ether without eliciting at least one multihankied sob; and if that's what you want out of a film, well, you've got it. Hurt seems to be bucking for at least two Oscar nominations here: one for his performance, the other for best echo effects by an interpreter of signed speech; I suppose the constant repetition is necessary (Matlin's character only communicates through sign language), but it points up the film/play's willingness to sacrifice situational truth for didactic accessibility. With Piper Laurie and Philip Bosco.

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