Mark Medoff's tough play about deafness is sweetened and softened in this 1986 film adaptation directed by Randa Haines (Wrestling Ernest Hemingway). William Hurt plays a teacher newly hired at a school for deaf children, and Marlee Matlin is the deaf and withdrawn janitor who captures his attention. Romantic and heartfelt, the film makes its audience care very much about its two leading characters, and wince when Hurt's well-meaning instructor allows Matlin's handicap to become a problem. Haines develops some interesting visual ideas to underscore the isolation of Matlin's world, particularly a lovely refrain that finds Matlin swimming alone at night. The drama is cut somewhat by the bouncy energy and good humor of Hurt's students. Piper Laurie is very good in a supporting role as Matlin's mother. --Tom Keogh
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