Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama
  • 1986
  • 199 mins

Children Of A Lesser God

Children Of A Lesser God


Ground-breaking drama that put deaf actress Marlee Martin on an equal footing with co-star William Hurt


In some ways, Children Of The Lesser God is rather like one of those British supertrains from the 1970s: it heralded a future that never came. Here was an Oscar-friendly Hollywood movie built around a disability that for once had the decency to cast actors who happened to have that disability, rather than reward an able-bodied star for their heart-tugging, mugging-heavy turn.

Since the release of the film, there have been more stars than ever having a go at acting from wheelchairs or playing at mental illness. And Marlee Martin, an Oscar-winner at 21, is - apart from a good stint on 'The West Wing' - destined to be half-remembered as that "beautiful deaf girl".

The film itself treads a line between radical campaigning and mainstream movie making. The political point is that Sarah (Martin) refuses to learn talking and lip-reading, because with signing she already has a language that serves her well. Hurt, then having his moment as a big star, is the hippy teacher who falls in love with her while trying to convince her to compromise with the hearing world.

They are both superb, which compensates for occasional missteps in the filmmaking. Having Hurt say out loud everything that Martin signs, for instance, is an inelegant way out of the problem of her dialogue. But this is also a film with a manifest desire to do the right thing that should not be mocked. It's worth remembering that sincere films like this were every bit as representative of what Hollywood was doing in the mid-1980s as Top Gun.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Allison Gompf, William Hurt, John F Cleary, Piper Laurie, Philip Bosco, Marlee Matlin
  • Director: Randa Haines
  • Writer: Mark Medoff, Hesper Anderson
  • Producer: Burt Sugarman, Patrick Palmer
  • Photographer: John Seale
  • Composer: Michael Convertino

In a nutshell

A sappy but often genuinely moving and angry film about love, life and deafness.

by Mark Morris

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Thunder Island

    Thriller. A hit man (Gene Nelson) is hired to kill a former Caribbean dictator. He abducts a couple and their boat to reach the despot's island, but then his plans go badly wrong.

  • Film4

    The Enchanted Forest

    An old man raises a young boy who became lost in the woods, teaching him about life and nature

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Elena Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film festival on her five favourites of the fest. The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos' success in realising the usually disastrous combination of farci

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Manuela Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film Festival on five favourites from the fest. The Witch What if the sorceresses and deadly spells in which people believed so fervently in th

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register