The only conventional speech in Life and Deaf is that repeated by an interpreter during a conversation between those hard of hearing and the hearing majority. You soon forget that this engaging film portrays a world of sign language, lip-reading and cochlear-implanted aids as the deaf joke, gossip, tease each other over the family supper table, and obsess about sport.
The film highlights an unknown community in north London that has surprisingly deep roots going back through generations of genetic deafness. We meet Tina and Marios expecting their first child: in his family the boys are born deaf, the girls hearing. You can tell that the football-mad father, and his equally fanatic brother, trainer of St John’s Deaf FC, are hoping for a boy who might break the chain.
Meanwhile the couple attend antenatal classes like any other, with an interpreter when necessary and the usual hopes and alarms. Nearing 30, single girl Abigail is beginning to feel isolated and wants to be part of both deaf and hearing social groups. She consults specialists about an operation for a cochlear implant and takes tests for visual comprehension of spoken words that is slightly worrying.
Above all we become perhaps patronisingly aware of the normality of their lives, countered by the different ways they have of coping, including lip-reading and sign language, and the insecurity of those with recourse to only one, fearful of being left behind and aware that surgery might not provide all the answers.