Children of a Lesser God (1986)
William Hurt and Marlee Matlin began their volatile real-life relationship prior to commencing shooting for this narratively rather run-of-the-mill romantic drama about a hearing speech teacher (Hurt) who arrives at a school for the deaf and strikes up a relationship with a young deaf custodian and former student of the school (Matlin). What is most rewarding about Children of a Lesser God is exactly the fiery interplay between Hurt and Matlin, which almost boils over from affection, attraction and frustration. Now, Matlin and particularly Hurt are both fine performers, but there is every reason to believe that the former's eventual Academy Award for the part was helped ashore largely by the emotion she had already invested in Mr. Hurt before the cameras began to roll. Add to that her handicap, which - apart from the strong performances - is the only thing that really sets this story apart. Unfortunately, American audiences' objections to subtitles impair the film's otherwise impressive authenticity; in order for us to understand what the mute Matlee character says when communicating using American Sign Language (ASL), Hurt's character is forced to repeat her every word for us. In addition to appearing ridiculous, this hampers the rhythm of the otherwise forceful exchanges between the two leads, and the film now feels dated - due to this and an utterly horrific musical score by Michael Convertino, whose synthesizers seem to be on a bad acid trip.