At 19:55 minutes of duration, this film stands really tall at accomplishing something out of the ordinary. It manages to draw your attention to certain alarming facts that as a society we have all come to neglect or worse still, overlook. It coerces you to think, feel and not digress, all without being overtly preachy or sentimental. It certainly isn’t an educational tale but leaves behind sufficient to learn from.
Meet Libby (Maisie Sly), the preschooler who is deaf, both in real and in reel. Her older siblings and parents are however completely normal, hearing wise, that is! Although they believe that they are offering her a comfortable living atmosphere, we see right from the beginning that Libby is leading largely an isolated existence. Her eyes darting between her surroundings and people’s lips as she tries to make sense of herself are melancholic to say the least. Her mother Sue (Rachel Fielding) is busy being a housewife/businesswoman/caretaker to Paul’s mum leaving her with little to no time to cater to Libby’s needs. Her father Paul (Philip York) who is by and large the more relaxed one between the two is occupied with his own schedule. And, her siblings Pip (Annie Cusselle) & Seb (Sam Rees) are well, busy being teenagers.
The family of course has their set routines and standard conversations across dinner tables like any other family does; but as an audience you’re made aware of the subtle tension existing between them all, giving an outline of well developed characters. The story however, begins with the hiring of a tutor Joanne (Rachel Shenton) who is to help Libby acclimatize before she sets off to school. Under the newfound care and guidance, Libby begins to bloom, converse using sign language, live a life as any normal girl her age would, but it is meant to be short-lived. Concerns over how learning the sign language would actually help their daughter adapt into a world where not many know the language ultimately forces the parents to terminate Joanne’s services and send Libby off to a school with little aid. The story begins and ends there…
Chris Overton’s direction brings out some spectacular performances with Sly being the show stealer undoubtedly. Her magnetic performance is bound to stay with you long after the curtain falls. Ali Farahani captures the bucolic scenery beautifully, adding a surreal tenor to the narrative whilst effortlessly seizing the mundanity of daily life. The editing (Emily Walder) is flawless and the background score (Amir Konjani) needs a special mentioning, because it isn’t just the soundtrack or the instruments used, but also how silence has been used effectively to give the audience a sense of what it feels like to be in Libby’s world that makes it simply genius!
Inspired from real life incidences, the movie has plenty to take away than just an Oscar. It’s an emotional journey of a tutor and the plight of a deaf girl from her (tutor’s) perspective. It is the story of indifference that has been exhibited by our society and how it continues to be so, in offering little help to brilliant yet affected children like Libby adapt into our society where they rightfully belong.
Congratulations to the entire team of ‘The Silent Child’ for having brought on to screen a compelling and a soul-stirring story!