Thriller Releases: Silence & Darkness (2020) - Reviewed

Silence & Darkness is a rather unoriginal title for this drama/ thriller, unlike the film itself. In fact, the film explores characters with unique circumstances, which provides Silence & Darkness with a refreshing angle to springboard a slow-burning thriller that culminates in a predictable, but engaging, climax.

Written and directed by Barak Barkan, with writing credits such as 2017’s Killing the Fiddler and 2016’s Excellent Coffee, Silence & Darkness is an interesting journey into the lives of two sisters, Anna (Mina Walker) and Beth (Joan Glackin). Respectively, they are blind and deaf and communicate in a wonderful manner by tactile sign language. This peaks one’s interest immediately, especially when we are introduced to their loving father, known simply as ‘Father’, played by Jordan Lage (known for his impressive filmography with roles in Better Call Saul and Law & Order: SVU, among others). Father is a local doctor, but we soon find out that he has secrets and this sets the catalyst for the film.

The film has an insidious feel from the beginning, introducing the characters with great affection, while slowly building up to the revelation of something deeper running through it. The use of lighting, setting and dialogue expertly builds up the necessary apprehension without rushing the plot.

Silence & Darkness runs quietly in many ways, reminding us of No Country for Old Men in that it builds up with great subtlety, as neighbors and a jilted lover keep probing at the serenity of Father and his two girls’ idyllic life in the countryside. The two sisters develop well, clearly not perturbed by their handicaps, which is a sign of their independence and love for one another. This inspirational character establishment secures the believability of what the girls do once the proverbial shit hits the fan.

All three main actors do a great job at projecting the frustration of their characters, and Silence & Darkness creates a gradual revelation of matters soon bordering on the grotesque without explicit gore or violence. In some ways, the casual brutality of circumstances in the film makes it more disturbing, leading up to the realization that the girls had inadvertently uncovered a very dark secret pertaining to their life and their confrontation of the truth, ignoring the constraints of their blindness and deafness.

The only problem with Silence & Darkness is that it fails to flesh out the story, robbing us of a substantial exploration of why things ended up the way they did. I cannot help but feel that Silence & Darkness could have been a bigger, more intense exploration of psychology, the pursuit of science and the uncovering of disturbing events hidden in a lie. In fact, the film feels one-dimensional, as if a writer made a short story of what could have been an epic, complex journey into the mind of a deranged medical mind. 

Instead, it runs like an episode of a crime thriller, rather than probing the deeper mania of the hidden intentions of the scientific mind. Silence & Darkness has great potential, but unfortunately, it falls flat in its revelation as if the writing was too hasty to investigate the brilliant characters in depth before revealing what we all know was going to happen.

Absolutely worth a watch, if only to revel in the excellent acting of the three lead actors and the juxtaposition between the lie and the intent behind Father’s actions.

--Tasha Danzig