More than twenty years before I gave birth to a deaf son, something called my attention in one of my favorite movies, Four Weddings and a Funeral: the brother of the main character was deaf, and signing was a big part of the plot. Back then, I was attracted to signing because a boy from my village signed. My aunt owned four schools for the deaf in the south of Spain. Looking back, it seems like I was being somehow prepared for what life had in reserve for me, and I was too busy to listen. My aunt, single and childless, offered time and again to leave me her schools if I studied Speech Therapy and moved to her city, but I was set in being cool studying literature and poetry, going out, reading books, hoping to be a writer one day. The irony of it didn’t escape me the first time I had to hire a Speech Therapist for my son, and it has haunted me a bit. What are the chances that the career you rejected will become such a crucial part of your life that you consider studying for it at the tender age of 35?
Along the years, I have run into other movies with deaf characters, but I only started “collecting” them when we got our four year old’s diagnosis. Of course he is too young to watch most of them, but I am compiling a list so, when he is older, he can watch them, and see himself represented in film and television. By then, most likely, and to my dismay, TV and cinema will be so obsolete that he will not feel represented at all, but that is another story. Just in case they are not, this list will be ready for him to check, and the movies will wait in a shelf in my house. For now, I will share it, hoping that it can help other families, and at the same time expecting more suggestion from all of you.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
As much as I love independent, weird, dramatic movies in Norwegian (or so says my husband), I believe that every woman needs a stack of feel good movies, for gloomy days. This is one of my favorites for that purpose. Released in 1994, with a very young Hugh Grant as Charles, the main character, it is funny, and witty, and visually pleasant. The deaf character here is David, Charles’ brother, played by the actor David Bower.
The Family Stone
This is a feel not so good movie, a dramedy that benefits from a great cast and a good plot. The deaf character is once again one of the siblings, Thad, who, on top of being deaf, is gay and hoping to adopt a baby with his partner. Thad signs, and so does his whole family. That is the kind of family I want my son to grow up in: loud, fun, loving and including, ready to defend each other to death. Thad is played by Tyrone Giordano
Children of a Lesser God
This is the quintessential “deaf” movie, with the plot taking place at a School for the Deaf. The main character, Sarah, is played by Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actress who has won an Oscar, and the one with the most successful career in this gallery. I just watched it recently after months of hesitation, and I loved it. In the movie, Sarah only signs, and shows the struggles she faces because of her choice. You can read all about my impressions of the movie here.
Mr Holland’s Opus
I have to thank a fellow parent for bringing this 1995 movie to my attention. To say that it is inspiring doesn’t make it any justice. It is beautiful, and uplifting, and a great portrayal of what it can mean to parent a deaf child. The title character, Mr Holland, a musician and teacher, has a hard time facing his son’s Cole deafness. Cole is played at different ages by Anthony Natale and Joseph Anderson.
Since I already mentioned that I like weird movies, this one had to be on my list. I still have to watch something by Gonzalez Iñarritu that I don’t like. In the movie, one of the characters, Chieko Wataya is a deaf Japanese teenager who is dealing with the issues and isolation that both deafness and adolescence can bring.
Etna Mode: inspirational speaker
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