Children of a Lesser God (1986)
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Great Oscar-winning performance by Marlee Matlin.
It made Marlee Matlin at star, and quite right too (and yet, not a big enough one). Children of a Lesser God is a complex love story in which William Hurt is consistently denied becoming an Abled Messiah to Matlin's fiercely proud deaf woman. Based on a stage play that didn't have the luxury of subtitles, Hurt does a lot of interpreting for the audience, a tic that might seem unnatural in anyone but a voice teacher probably used to speaking sign language back at the student. But it also puts us in his world (and I wish I knew enough signing to shut the sound off and watch it from her perspective). These guys love each other, but they have to learn to live with their communication problems, and while that's universal if heightened here, there's also the matter of their coming at disability from totally different angles. He teaches people how to adapt to the hearing world, she would rather people adapt to her circumstances, and as a kindness, perhaps, the two of them might meet in the middle. The film also acknowledges, then, that it goes both ways. She is mute to us, but we are mute to her. And it's never that simple, and yes, there's shame and self-loathing and anger and yet beauty in the experience. Matlin gives Sarah a sensuality that brings us into her world too. In the credits, I also found out the movie was filmed in New Brunswick, and that's so rare I can't believe I never knew. Cue people having sign language conversations sitting on lobster traps.
I dunno, it surely felt like a "paint-by-numbers inspirational story" to me (along with forced and pandering translations of sign language the entire time, just to make it more annoying).
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #354 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #743 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die