Children of a Lesser God

Director: Randa Haines

Mark Medoff’s Tony Award winning play became the basis of Randa Haines's powerful directorial debut about a young, dedicated and unorthodox teacher of the deaf who falls in love with an angry, bitter twenty-five year old janitor (Marlee Matlin in her Oscar winning role). Haines had the great challenge of taking the thoughtful play and turning it into a film and she succeeded marvelously, thanks largely in part to the talented cast. Matlin earned the most critical acclaim and she is sheer perfection but I believe that William Hurt had the more difficult role as not only did he have to play the idealistic teacher but also translate Matlin’s sign language into dialogue throughout the entire film. It’s a curious choice to have him speak for her continuously throughout, sort of adding to the underlying Henry Higgins/Eliza Dolittle relationship of the secure, thoughtful and wise man wanting to rescue the misguided young woman. His actions and Haines’s directorial decisions makes one confront the idea of just whom is controlling whom and it’s dealt with later on, thus making the choice to have Hurt translate seem completely natural and vital to the film’s script.