Children of a Lesser God 1986 ****

Mark Medoff’s hot Broadway property comes to the screen in a sensitive adaptation by director Randa Haines. William Hurt plays James Leeds, a speech teacher specializing in deaf students, who takes a post at a remote new Brunswick school. He makes good progress with his students, but finds himself involved with his cleaner Sarah (Marlee Matlin), a gifted student who refuses to leave the school. James and Sarah have a turbulent sexual relationship, and one which brings his unconventional methods to the attention of the headmaster (Phillip Bosco).  Matlin won an Oscar for her remarkable performance, but Hurt matches her intensity; it’s refreshing to see a Hollywood film that doesn’t rely on actors feigning disability, but instead casts a genuinely deaf woman in a central role. A thoughtful view of teaching, relationships and deafness, Children of a Lesser God still offers plenty of romance without being sloppy.


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