Children of a Lesser God… My favorite film with a deaf character
All right now. You’ve probably heard of A Quiet Place. John Krasinski’s latest directorial work is gaining a lot or praise and for one, I cannot wait to see it, despite not being the biggest fan of the horror genre.
A quiet place stars Krasinski and his real life wife, Emily Blunt and the movie also features the real deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. While i wait for this movie to be released (on April 6th) I want to talk about one great movie that also has a deaf actress (in the lead role no less).
I’m talking about Children of a Lesser God of course. Released in the year I was born (1986) I remember seeing it for the first time on TV, sometimes in the late 90’s. It was late in the evening and me and my mom had this nightly ritual of watching movies with popcorn, soda and other snacks. It was our thing, our bonding moment and i’ve watched countless great movies with her during our late night movie screenings.
Children of a Lesser God was a particularly memorable experience because of several reasons. At the very beginnings you can tell that Marlee Matlin was not just outstanding, but very comfortable in the role despite this being her film debut. That’s because she was and still is a real deaf person. Not an actress playing a deaf person. The difference between her and her hearing colleagues was noticeable but it was also what made her stand out in a good way. I remember her hand movements, the way she communicated with sign language. It was emotional and passionate when she talked, when had fights with her co-stars, and there was even one scene when she danced to a music, despite the fact that she couldn’t hear the music.
Her chemistry with William Hurt was so palpable- you could cut the sexual tension with a knife from the very first scene in which they meet. God damn, I even loved their fights. And there were plenty of them in this movie, but it’s a great movie trust me. William Hurt is breathtakingly beautiful and devilishly sexy in the role of James Leeds, the speech teacher and her love interest. Piper Laurie is fantastic too, and despite all three getting Oscar nominations Matlin was the one that actually won her Best lead actress Oscar. To this day she’s the youngest Oscar winner (in the lead actress category). She was just 21 when she won her Oscar, and all I can say is… She deserved it.
This was also the first film directed by a woman (Randa Haines) to be Oscar nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the film’s box office takings shot up by an unprecedented 164% after Marlee Matlin’s Oscar win for Best Actress. How cool is that?
According to Matlin’s autobiography she and William were romantically involved during the production of the movie, but that’s not that important. What’s important is how timeless and beautiful this movie is. His legacy still holds up, more than 3 decades later and I suggest that you watch it if you have a chance. The movie also shines a light on how a deaf person is coping and living with that particular disability, and what it means for the rest of the world around that person. The romance is great, the acting is outstanding and the writing is fantastic. A truly fantastic movie.