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Children of a Lesser God is a 1986 film that tells the story of a speech teacher at a school for deaf students who falls in love with a deaf woman who also works there. It stars William Hurt, Marlee Matlin, Piper Laurie, and Philip Bosco.

The movie, directed by Randa Haines, was adapted by Mark Medoff, Hesper Anderson and James Carrington from Medoff's Tony award-winning play of the same title, which ran on Broadway from 1980-1982.

In her debut role as Sarah Norman, Matlin won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Actress. Aged 21 at the time, she is the youngest actress to have received an Oscar for Best Actress. Almost completely deaf in real life since the early age of 18 months, she has since gone on to become an established film and television star and remains active in charities for the deaf and hearing impaired around the world. The film also garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for William Hurt, Best Supporting Actress for Piper Laurie, Best Picture, and Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay.

Plot summary

Matlin plays Sarah Norman, a troubled young deaf woman working as a cleaner at a school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in New Englandmarker. An energetic new teacher, James Leeds (played by William Hurt), arrives at the school and encourages her to set aside her insular life by learning how to talk. As she already uses sign language, Sarah resists James' attempts to get her to talk. Romantic interest develops between James and Sarah and they are soon living together, though their differences and mutual stubbornness eventually strains their relationship to breaking point, as he continues to want her to talk, and she feels somewhat stifled in his presence. Sarah leaves James and goes to live with her estranged mother (played by Piper Laurie) in a nearby city, reconciling with her in the process. However, she and James later find a way to resolve their differences.


The movie was shot primarily in and around Saint John, New Brunswickmarker with the Rothesay Netherwood School serving as the main set. Aside from locations in Saint John and Rothsay Netherwood School, various sets were constructed by Saint John local, Keith MacDonald.

Box Office performance

Although budget details are not known the film opened at number 5 at the North American box office with an opening weekend gross of $1,909,084. The film stayed in the Top 10 for 8 weeks and grossed a total of $31,853,080 in North America.




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