Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Silent Child (2017) Film Review
The Silent Child
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Actor Chris Overton makes a strong directorial debut with his Oscar-nominated short The Silent Child, written by and starring his fiance Rachel Shenton. Title cards at the end of the film note that more than 78 per cent of deaf kids start school with no specialist support in place. If you're having trouble imagining what that might mean, you'll understand by the time you've watched the film, which shows how easy it is for deaf children to become isolated, even within their own home.
Libby (Maisie Sly) is four, the youngest in her family, she is also profoundly deaf. That means that during busy breakfasts, she more or less watches from the sidelines as mum Sue (Rachel Fielding), dad Paul (Philip York) chat away with her older siblings. When social worker Joanne (Shenton) starts to visit and teach her sign language, a world of possibilities begin to open up for her - but now it is mum who begins to feel isolated.
Although the film's subject is deafness, Shelton and Overton really want us to see exactly what can happen to a youngster viewed as 'less able' by those around her simply because she is unable to communicate in exactly the same way that they can. Overton uses the visuals of sign language well, showing how they offer real freedom of expression for the previously sidelined Libby and, at one point, kills the sound completely to immerse us fully in her world. In one of the film's most uplifting moments, we see Libby in a room with other deaf people as she suddenly realises she can understand what they are saying - a pleasure as simple as feeding the ducks, but one the hearing community take for granted.
Shenton - a long-time advocate for deaf issues - has the sort of smile that lights up a room and helps to elicit a winning and natural performance from the film's young deaf star Sly. It's also worth looking out for composer Amir Konjani in the future, whose gently supportive score captures the film's bittersweet mood.
The filmmakers do not want you to feel good after this short, they want you to think and admirable though that is, the ultimate weight they put on the factual educational message is at odds with a fully satisfying fictional resolution.Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2018