Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweet Nothing in my Ear

Those who know me well know that there's not much I love more than a good discussion about Deafness. You can understand, then, how thrilled I was to turn on our TV and randomly find a Hallmark movie dealing with this subject dear to my heart. It was called "Sweet Nothing in my Ear", starring Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin.

The movie is a family drama about a Deaf and hearing couple who struggle to decide whether or not to give their Deaf son a cochlear implant. I won't spoil the movie for you by giving away the ending, but I think Hallmark tried hard to present a "fair and balanced" view of the medical procedure. The cochlear implant issue is very complicated and controversial, especially when a young child is involved.

I think Daniels did a great job learning American Sign Language from scratch for this film. I also think that Marlee Matlin is a beautiful and talented actress. (You may remember that she won an academy award for "Children of a Lesser God".) This movie deals with many aspects of Deaf culture such as Deaf pride, Deaf history, customs, Deaf education, etc.

You can watch the preview below.

However as much as I liked the acting and the themes, "Sweet Nothing in my Ear" disappointed me in one important area. For some reason the producers chose to use voice-overs instead of subtitles every time a deaf person spoke. I found the following comment on a popular deaf message board and couldn't agree more: "The choice to voice-over the signing in the Hallmark Production reminded me of old Disney movies in which you would hear the interior monologue of what the pet dog was thinking. Really, what a poor choice on so many levels. Aside from the insult to the Deaf Community, it just didn't work dramatically at all. It was laughable and it made deaf people look like lesser people. Wow."

In any other movie with a foreign language, there would have been subtitles, not voice-overs. Even more so in this film dealing with American Sign Language as a primary form of communication the director should have made sure to focus on the beautiful and highly visual nature of signing. Instead I found myself getting annoyed with the voice-overs and frustrated that the camera often cut off the signer's hands so I couldn't see what they were signing. How did the Deaf people who were involved in this production allow this to happen?

Anyway, vent aside, I recommend this movie if you wish to learn more about current issues that often arise in the Deaf community. However, in my opinion it has all been done before (and better) in a documentary called "Sound and Fury".

However, if you can't find a copy of "Sound and Fury" to watch, then "Sweet Nothing in my Ear" is better than ... well ... sweet nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Is there a sub-culture of deaf-language only filmmakers?