Nicely helmed by first-time feature director Haines, CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD is a poignant yet uplifting love story involving a speech teacher and a deaf young woman. James Leeds (Hurt) is a maverick instructor newly arrived at a facility for the hearing impaired, where he meets Sarah
Norman (Matlin), a graduate of the school who has chosen to stay and work in a menial job rather than attempt to go out into the world that the school has supposedly taught her to face. He falls in love with her almost instantly, but she resists him at first and also steadfastly refuses to read
lips or attempt to talk; she insists on signing. In an attempt to learn why Sarah will not venture out into the world, Leeds visits her mother (Laurie) and discovers the root of Sarah's bitterness.
The major problem with the movie is that the audience is never left to its own interpretive devices. Because Matlin's hearing is severely impaired in real life, Hurt translates everything she signs for the benefit of viewers. Some of this may have been necessary, but Matlin's silent acting is so
expressive that we often know exactly what is going through her mind as the emotions flicker across her face, and the translation routine interrupts the flow of the story time and again for no good reason. Nevertheless, despite this flaw, several dramatic lulls, and an aggressive determination to
"sparkle," the film often makes for crackling good drama with plenty of leavening humor and magnificent performances by Hurt and newcomer Matlin. leave a comment