William Hurt received his second consecutive Oscar nomination for portraying James Leeds in Children of a Lesser God.
William Hurt portrays the teacher for blind students. Hurt has exceedingly large amount of energy in the role that works perfectly for the earnest character of James Leeds.William Hurt is just great in his early moments and his first time in class with the deaf students. It is actually quite enjoyable to see William Hurt teach in these scenes because of all the energy he throws into them.
Hurt really shows that Leeds loves to teach the students, as well as desperately wants to help them get along in life the best that he can. It could have been easy to either have been underwhelming or overwhelming in theses scenes and seemed disingenuous but Hurt never seems that way for a moment. Hurt shows that everything does come from an honest want to help the kids nothing else.
James Leeds finds more to do than just teach the kids when he comes across the school cleaner Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin) who was former student of the school. Their relationship together pretty much makes up for most of the film, as well as most of the film. It is a good thing than that Hurt and Matlin have terrific chemistry together.
Both actors form a fascinating dynamic with one another with Hurt being enthusiastically hopeful most of the time as James, where Matlin holds it back and is very defensive. Hurt though shows that Leeds honestly does care about her, and slowly shows that she means even more to James than just being a case of a troubled deaf woman, but perhaps he loves her as well. Hurt is excellent in portraying this transition and does not make it seem at all forced.
The eventual eagerness on Sarah's side though actually is made understandable, and natural by Hurt as well. The reason for this is Hurt is incredibly charming as James. Hurt here always conveys a great deal of likability throughout his performance. Hurt is charismatic throughout his performance, and he convincingly portrays James' absolute conviction to the relationship through some rather simple honesty.
There relationship as it grows is rather troubled because of her troubled past, and her belief that James wants deaf people to be more like hearing people. Hurt shines in there more troubled moments as well becuase he does show that James is not a perfect man, a good one sure, but not a perfect one. His scenes of anger, and argument with Sarah are again realistically portrayed by Hurt because he shows them as part of James' character.
Hurt shows James is not quite perfect through these scenes, but not bad. He rather just shows that James does not know everything, and the troubles slowly exasperate him as they would any man. these scenes work extraordinarily well because Hurt is able to bring out these these natural reactions, and natural transitions out of his characterization without fault.
This really is not the most complex of characters, certainly not as complex as say Luis Molina, but that does not deter at all the power of Hurt's work. Hurt gives an effective, charismatic performance. He is the perfect romantic lead in this film, because he acts appropriately appealing throughout as well as stays natural throughout. Most of all he succeeds in having terrific chemistry with his leading lady making their relationship one that is moving and memorable.