Children of a Lesser God

7.21 h 58 min1986X-RayR
A teacher falls in love with a gifted but bitter graduate at a Maine school for the deaf.
William HurtMarlee MatlinPiper Laurie
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Philip Bosco
Patrick PalmerBurt Sugarman
Crowd Pleasers
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Nudityviolencealcohol usefoul languagesexual content
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4.5 out of 5 stars

906 global ratings

  1. 74% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Whiskey Tango FoxtrotReviewed in the United States on September 28, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
Children of a lesser GOD
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I am the proud Father of a 34 year old deaf Daughter, Amanda. She enjoys Marlee Matlin TV shows, but this movie is very close to deaf culture as I have ever seen. Mr. Hollands Opus with Richard Dreyfuss, depicts some of the same philosophies with a deaf Son. Amanda was first diagnosed as being deaf when she was 2 years old from not talking or responding to voice or sounds. My immediate concern was to get her into an educational program so she could thrive. The choice in Ohio was strictly oral, BOOO, they would tie the childrens hands behind their backs if they attempted to sign, (this was a big second amendment NO NO issue for me), so, I moved to Tennessee leaving an empty house behind. The three of us were living in an airstream trailer maybe 10 miles from the Tennessee School for the Deaf, when a house became available just outside the gates of TSD. Of course we learned sign language and Amanda was already signing at 6th grade level at 3 years old. This did not fare well with TSD because she would be out pacing her peers and not be in her age group. They suggested mainstreaming her into a Public hearing School and that turned into a disaster because none of the other Kids knew how to sign and the Teacher was annoyed that an Interpreter was in the room. Ohio and Tennessee, turn your clocks back 200 years. So off we go to Northern California Fremont, California School for the Deaf, for Family workshops. We loved California with exeption of one tiny little hitch, we would be on a waiting list. Oregon was our next choice, but there are few if any jobs there to support your Family. Then we went to Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University Campus, Kendal School, which was ideal premium, except it was located in one of the most expensive Towns I had ever come across. Then we decided to move to Maryland and place her in the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, MD where we could afford to buy a house 1/2 mile from MSD and find work for both of us. I had my heart set for Amanda to receive an advanced degree at Gallaudet, she moved to WV and attended Fairmont University instead. Quick story when she was 3, I had to take a job in San Francisco because the bottom dropped out of Tennessee Valley Authority. Amanda wanted to meet Mickey Mouse, so all she could sign was I want to meet Mickey Mouse, imagine 3 days of this going cross country to Los Angeles enroute to SF. Okay we get into Disney and her little eyes locked in on the Mouse, she ran through crowds of people and went straight up to Mickey and signed "Hi, my name is Amanda" and Mickey, without hesitation, turned and signed,"how old are you"? They started dancing and we tried to find out the name of the person who was in the Mickey suit upon exiting the park, they said, send Fan Mail. Well that we did and 2 months later we got a letter from the Woman named CB. She was one of 20 people who wore the Mickey suit at any given time. She was the only person who knew sign language, as a hobby. What are the odds of that happening? Amanda keeps in touch with CB to this day. CB was an Angel that day in the Magic Kingdom. While in San Francisco we caught a musical by MUSIGN, since disbanded, but they opened up the eyes and hearts of many people into their world. Another movie well worth watching, Michael Crichton's "CONGO" about a signing Ape (more like me) and this Ape knows over 600 signs and still lives in California, named Amy. Sign language can be a universal language in any Nation or dialect, for important things like hospital, toilet, hungry, sleepy, drug store, car or whatever you can dream of. Try explaining GOD in abstract to a deaf Kid. A little effort goes a long way. This is a great movie, note that Marlee Matlin is a great Actor, she will scare the bajeemas out of you when she was cornered to use her voice. My Amanda has no idea how LOUD she can be. So sign softly, to know another language is to have another life. This is English for those of you who think language is hard, it is strictly a conversion of English to hand gestures, you've got the English. If I can sign, anybody can, even an Ape named Amy. I'll have to close by saying that Deaf people are not dumb as the age old thinking goes. I worked with deaf Graduates from Gallaudet University on Nuclear Power Plant Design and Construction, I worked with deaf Engineering Graduates from Rochester Institute designing Chemical Plants. I met with a deaf Man who couldn't get a job with an advanced degree in computer science, so he opened up his own Government software business and employed 500 people. I met a deaf and blind man on the BART train in San Francisco who signing in his hand was the only way to communicate with him. I asked him how do you know when to get off of the train? The computer stops the train several times before getting to your destination. He replied, well the doors only open 4 times and that is my stop. Curious, I asked whhere are you going? He replied, I am going to work. ??? Work? What kind of work do you do? He replied, I am a computer programmer. ??? Uh, really? He replied, yeah, I have a QWERTY keyboard just like millions of other Americans and I use a tactile reader device, like a braille reader to tell me if I made a mistake in my line code. Makes you feel very grateful that people like him are driven to live despite everything. Our Native Americans used signs to communicate. Well, that's all for now Folks, enjoy the movie. CUDOS Marlee.
5 people found this helpful
John P. Jones IIIReviewed in the United States on March 8, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
“Take her out of pity…”
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Who amongst us is old enough to remember the Kingston Trio, and in particular, their subject song? Thanks to that familiar on-line giant, I listened to the song again for the first time in half a century. The lines are not quite as I remembered, but the essence is there: sister Sally had many sweethearts, was married at 16, two kids by 18; sister Sarah on the other hand was 29, and “never had an offer.” Yet it was Sally who was “ugly and misshapen.”

“Pity” is mentioned a couple of times in “Children of a Lesser God,” which was directed by Randa Haines, and released in 1986. I first saw it shortly after its release and felt it merited a re-viewing. And it certainly does. In the Kingston Trio song, there is no indication why Sally should be pitied. One suspects however that it is a physical defect, apparently worse that being “ugly and misshapen.” Was it a permanent limp, having caught polio before vaccinations became universal? Was she blind? Or was she deaf, as in this movie?

William Hurt plays the part of John Leeds, a young enthusiastic teacher who newly arrives at a school for the deaf. He is not deaf but has taught himself sign language. His style is unorthodox. He lowers the staid barriers between teacher and students in an effort to break through to students locked in their silent worlds, build their self-esteem, teach them to talk and have them integrate into the “hearing world.” Alas, today he would probably be fired for using some of those techniques.

Marlee Matlin plays Sarah, who is deaf and refuses to speak. She had been a student at the school since the age of five, and is now 25, and apparently content being the maid at the school. The attractive sparks fly from their first glance. Of course it is a bit easier to “take someone out of pity” when they are as beautiful as Marlee Matlin, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role. Throughout the movie she almost never opens her mouth… sometimes there is an enigmatic smile. So it doesn’t hurt Hurt, as it were, when she proclaims that she can use her mouth better than those “hearing girls.” Ah, compensation. And there are those wonderful erotic possibilities that are always latent in a swimming pool… or the Mother Sea.

There really is no condescension or “pity” in Leeds’ attitude towards Sarah. Yes, there is the implicit beauty, but he very much credits her intelligence. They become a couple; she moves in with him. The film wonderfully portrays the nuances of their interactions. For example, can he truly enjoy his Mozart while knowing that his partner cannot? There is the sorting out of the baggage that she has carried since childhood, including, as so often happens, her relationship with her mother. Primacy though is given to the “Hedda Gabler” moment, as she realizes that she must define herself as someone other than a person who cannot hear.

It is possible for us of the “hearing world” to pick up some sign language, including the essential: “Je t’aime.” One might even learn an important way of indicating how there can be a meeting, “neither in silence nor in sound.” The movie was filmed at St. John’s, New Brunswick. In real life, Matlin is deaf. She has used her fame from this movie to promote causes related to those who are hearing-impaired. A great movie, even the second time around. 5-stars, plus.
12 people found this helpful
cheryl SommerReviewed in the United States on October 12, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Very good
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Nice story
joel wingReviewed in the United States on May 28, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Window into the world of the deaf
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Children Of A Lesser God is a unique romance because it deals with William Hurt falling for Marlee Martin who is deaf. What you really walk away with is a glimpse into the world of the deaf as Hurt is not only in a relationship with Martin but works at a school for the deaf. Thus you see Hurt trying to get kids to speak, to annunciate, all the signing. Most importantly is Martin’s experience and how she expresses herself and what she wants out of life. It all makes for a unique experience.
ChicGeekReviewed in the United States on March 19, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
MOVIE: 5.0 • VIDEO: 4.6 • AUDIO: 2.3
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UPC: 0-97360-18394-8
RELEASED: 2000-12-12

TITLE: Children of a Lesser God (1986) • R • 1:58:45
William Hurt, Marlee Matlin, Piper Laurie, Philip Bosco
Randa Haines (Director)

Nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor [William Hurt], Best Actress [Marlee Matlin, who won], Best Supporting Actress [Piper Laurie] and Best Screenplay [Based on Material from Another Medium]) this beautifully photographed and emotionally moving film should be seen by ALL serious movie buffs. After watching this movie I had a whole new appreciation for my ability to hear — and, a whole new desire to better understand the feelings and experiences of the people that I care about (without imposing MY beliefs and prejudices onto THEM). How many other movies have you seen that bring about these types of feelings and desires in a person. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. See the other reviews for more detail and/or other opinions regarding the plot of the movie.

VIDEO: 1.78:1 • Color • 480p • MPEG-2 (8.6 Mbps)

Within the confines of the DVD format (and, I'm sure, because of its SUBSTANTIALLY higher than average bit-rate), this transfer exhibits very-good to frequently excellent picture quality. This film's gorgeous cinematography is presented surprisingly well in this DVD transfer — which features richly saturated colors, good contrast and very-good shadow detail. In addition, the night scenes and dark indoor scenes (of which, there are many) are mostly un-crushed and free of artifacts. Also, relatively fine detail (for a DVD) is evident in the brighter scenes and in many of the close-ups of actor's faces and their clothing. Lastly, there are no obvious artifacts such as banding, specks, white dots, hair-lines or color fluctuations to detract from the image. Overall, this movie's presentation on DVD has VERY good picture quality, and should satisfy all but the MOST anal retentive (picky) viewers.

AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 (Dual-Mono)

Unfortunately, this movie's audio presentation comes nowhere near to matching its splendid visual presentation. The Dolby Digital 2.0 (Dual-Mono) soundtrack, while featuring dialog that is mostly clear (though frequently "boxy" sounding [particularly with William Hurt's character]), has very limited dynamic range. In addition, there isn't any bottom-end nor top-end to speak of — that, coupled with harshness on even moderately loud musical passages and on all loud sounds, makes for an audio experience that is quite constrained and not very realistic sounding. Even though the movie is monophonic and dialog-driven, its audio presentation has somewhat less than acceptable sound quality.

8 people found this helpful
neaReviewed in the United States on June 4, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not exactly sure what message they are trying to send here
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Being deaf does not turn you into an angry, defensive, and ill tempered person, Society and your parents do that to you. And it isn't exclusive to being deaf. Many people who can hear are also ill tempered, angry and offensive. This one just happens to also be deaf. My main problem with this show is he barely knows her, and she has done nothing but rebuff him and he says he is falling in love? I was a bit taken a back when he said that, I guess this is just how the story goes, the way it was written, but someone should have taken a step back and said, WHAT the heck.....this just isn't going to wash, it is without any rhyme or reason and it comes off to the audience as he is just wanting to go to bed with her, which to me was just down right creepy since he is obviously a lot older than she is and she is a bit vulnerable it is wrong, He comes off to me as a stalkers, and by now I would be running as fast as my legs could carry me away from him. I really do not find his character is this movie very likable, anyway, I am not enjoying the movie, to me it is a bit too contrived and is putting emphasis on something that only Hollywood would see as a good thing, to exploit in movies something that is actually quite normal, deafness. There are a lot of deaf people in this world and they are just as individual as everyone else, some sign, some speak, some read lips and some do all of those things. It is a preference, AND THEY ALL CAN GET along quite well in the world. It is naïve and also a bit self opportunistic thinking that you are going to be a deaf persons savior.
5 people found this helpful
Robert HayesReviewed in the United States on January 24, 2015
3.0 out of 5 stars
More than watchable, thanks to a fine performance by Marlee Matlin
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CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD seemed like it would feel right at home on the Lifetime Network. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, except that those types of films tend to go for the easy emotional hook rather than dealing with harsher realities that might be more true to life. However, this film rises above that, to a degree, thanks to some good work by the reliable William Hurt and an eye-opening performance by deaf actress Marlee Matlin. Her presence was critical to making it work, and its success mostly rests on her shoulders.

The story concerns a teacher, James Leeds (William Hurt), who is a new addition to the faculty at Kittredge School for the Deaf. He is an idealistic person with unconventional teaching methods who quickly earns the trust and admiration of his students. However an employee, Sarah (Marlee Matlin), and also a former student, proves more of a challenge. Despite her resistance to him trying to help, a romance blossoms between the two and sets the stage for a clash of wills.

Aside from the outstanding performances (including a small, but affecting turn by Piper Laurie as Sarah's mother), one thing I thought was really well-done was the intimate moments of conflict between James and Sarah after the point in the story where they fall in love. Those dialogue exchanges were key to what I felt was the central struggle in the film. Nominally, it was about a man in love trying to get through to a deaf woman, but it can also be generalized to any relationship where communication can be difficult. Men and women often enter a relationship hoping that the other person will meet them on their own terms, but the reality is that it's best if they meet each other halfway. This is something I thought was beautifully explored in the film. I also enjoyed the many scenes where James interacts with his students, as these provided some comic relief.

Still, not everything was so admirable. For one, I thought that the film took a rather patriarchal attitude towards women. Marlee Matlin, strong as her performance may have been, is still playing a strong-willed woman who finds herself in being with a man, just shy of being domesticated. At one point during the obligatory separation part of any romantic drama, she moves back in with her mother and gets a job, but doesn't find fulfillment in it. I understand that this film was made close to 30 years ago (and the play it was based on) so it's a product of its time, but things like that have a detrimental effect on how well a film ages. And with respect to its attitudes towards women, this film has not aged well in my opinion. They also took a rather pedestrian and cliche approach to the typical romantic elements of the story.

Overall, this was a well-acted and (seemingly) well-meaning look at love in a unique relationship/circumstance. Some of the music was a little too on-the-nose, but generally was fitting. I also enjoyed the 80's pop songs they included in the soundtrack. What the film does best is explore the difficulties inherent in a relationship between a hearing and deaf person, which can be generalized to the difficulty in any relationship. Still, it's retrograde (at least, now) attitude towards women makes it a little lesser of a film than it could have been.
3 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on May 5, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
It was good.
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Not as good as I expected.
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