Plot: What’s it about?
James Leeds (William Hurt) is an instructor in a special education course and while some scoff at his efforts, he strives to reach his students and make a difference within their lives. He is new to this school, but his hopes are high and he think with some time, he will able to make a difference in the lives of his students. James is assigned to work with deaf children and that might sound like a real chore, but he is more than willing to do whatever it takes to communicate with his pupils. Soon he meets Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin), an older student who still remains at the school, as he dislikes the world that treats her like she’s broken. Sarah feels very alone in the world, but refuses to allow anyone close to her, which of course doesn’t help her problems much. She gives James a very cold welcome and refuses to read lips, forcing him to speak with her through sign language. James finds himself attracted to Sarah in a personal fashion, but she keeps the cold treatment in full effect. Can James prove to Sarah that he is different, or will she continue to block all others out of her life?
This film has some terrific lead performances, so good in fact, that they more than cover up the lackluster elements found with this picture. That is not to say that the movie is lame by any means, but it lacks any hints of unique elements, which can curse films outside the action/adventure genre in a second. The basics seem rather mundane and predictable, but the leads here manage to elevate the material and that saves this movie in the end. William Hurt turns in a superb effort here and Marlee Matlin’s Oscar winning turn isn’t too shabby either, while their chemistry is also up to the right levels for this style of film. I think if you expect an average motion picture with some excellent lead performances, you’ll be pleased with what Children Of A Lesser God can offer you. Just don’t expect one of the finest films of the ’80s, because if you do, you’re bound to be let down to some degree. Some solid direction is also present, which helps kickstart the material when needed and that’s always welcome. I recommend this film as a rental and since this disc has little value elements, I think that will suffice in most cases.
Marlee Matlin took home an Oscar for her efforts in this film and I have to say, she deserved it. It might not be the usual tour-de-force turn that folks win the awards with, but Matlin uses subtle touches and realism to bring across her character, which works very well. Her work is even more impressive when you consider that not only is her character deaf, but so is she in real life. But I never stopped for even a second and though she was slipping, she’s that solid here. This was also Matlin’s screen debut, which adds even more value and skill to her work. This had to be a tough role right out of the gate, but she handles it with ease. It isn’t flashy or overpowering, but her performance is excellent nonetheless and deserved the accolades it amassed. Matlin can also be seen in such films as Two Shades Of Blue, Hear No Evil, The Player, Walker, and Freak City. The cast here also includes Philip Bosco (The Money Pit, The First Wives’ Club), John F. Cleary, Philip Holmes, Piper Laurie (The Crossing Guard, Return To Oz), and William Hurt (Dark City, The Big Brass Ring). The director of Children Of A Lesser God is Randa Haines, who helmed such films as Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, The Doctor, and Dance With Me.
Video: How does it look?
Children of a Lesser God is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This looks good for a film from 1986, but some grain and print wear do knock the score somewhat. The grain shows up in the darker scenes more than ever, so the lighter sequences are pretty clean and that’s something to be thankful for, I suppose. The film’s natural color scheme looks great here and no real flaws surface, even the flesh tones seem sharp and consistent. Aside from the grain, the contrast come across well, if a little dark at times. This should please fans of the film, but I hope we see a little more attention paid to future releases from this time period.
Audio: How does it sound?
The disc uses a mono track for audio, which doesn’t require much discussion. The dialogue emerges in crisp form, with no traces of volume flaws or clarity problems in the least. I never had to adjust the volume to compensate, which sometimes happens with audio tracks in the mono format. The film’s minimal sound effects seem in working order also, while the score is present in good shape, though limited by the restrictions of mono audio. This is about as bare bones as an audio track can be, but that is enough to squeak by for this material. This disc also houses a French mono option and English subtitles, in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.