Camilla Belle - Dot
Elisha Cuthbert - Nina
Martin Donovan - Paul
Edie Falco - Olivia
Shawn Ashmore - Connor
Katy Mixon - Michelle
Genre - Drama/Thriller
Running Time - 96 Minutes
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
They say sometimes the truth will set you free. We've been through so many things in our lives, good and bad, that we keep to ourselves. It never really lets people get to know us for who we really are. Instead, we project this image of ourselves as a defense mechanism because we're afraid what's behind that image won't be as acceptable from society. Believe me when I say that while I come off as a very sarcastic and upbeat individual, I harbor a lot of anger, regret, and sorrow inside. Issues with my father, my childhood, people who I thought were my friends, and a whole bunch of other things constantly float around in my mind. I'm the kind of person who keeps himself in check, holding back from ranting about things I don't want to burden people with. I don't feel it's necessary to reveal everything about myself until the levee begins to crack and it all comes flooding forth. Some people know me more than others and I'm cool with that. But I don't ever expect the entire truth about myself to ever come out to anyone. Sometimes, those things are scarier than any horror film could possibly throw at an audience.
But this isn't a review about myself. This is for an independent little thriller that anyone heard a peep from in 2005 called THE QUIET. It deals with substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse. The film uses the lead character, who is deaf and mute, as a way for the characters around her to reveal themselves. It's easy to tell people the truth when they can't hear what you have to say and not judge you. And while I said that the truth will set you free, THE QUIET proves that it could also trap you and the people around you in situations that you've never dreamed of being apart of.
Dot (Camilla Belle) is a deaf and mute teenager who lost her mother when she was seven and just recently, her father. She is adopted by her Godparents, who happen to be one of the most dysfunctional families ever put on film. The mother, Olivia (Edie Falco), seems to be emotionally crippled and deals with her issues through prescription pills and alcohol. The teenager daughter, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert), is a very popular cheerleader at her school who borders on being a bitch to everyone around her. And the father, Paul (Martin Donovan), likes to keep it in the family [if you know what I mean]. Since Dot is deaf, everyone around her seems to feel comfortable talking to her about their innermost thoughts, such as sexual issues and thoughts of murder. What these people don't know is that Dot is also carrying a secret - one that could change the relationships and the situations around her forever.
THE QUIET is one of those films I tried to catch on cable but never got to see it from the beginning. I read reviews for it and some were pretty negative, convincing me not to rush into seeing this film. But I got to watch it fully tonight [finally] and I really don't understand all the negativity. THE QUIET is a good little film. It's not perfect in the slightest but I think what it had to do it did pretty well.
Maybe all the negativity comes from the subject matter. Mainly the sub-plot between Nina and her father, which obviously involves incest, probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable too but things like this happen more than we care to share. And I thought it was handled pretty well. We don't see anything explicit, although Nina does say a mouthful about her activities to Dot. The whole issue isn't used to tell a message or used to create tension for the film. It never paints Nina as the victim and her father as the creep. Both are victims. Nina is extremely confused and psychologically damaged from having sex with her dad. She hates him for it, but at the same time loves him for it too. She doesn't know what she wants. She wants to murder him for making her feel horrible. But she doesn't want to see him dead either. She takes out her frustration on her mother, who is oblivious to everything [although you know she's not stupid and knows what's going on], and on Dot [who acts like her psychiatrist almost by just listening]. And Paul, the father, is just as confused as Nina is. He hates himself and actually calls himself "sick" for sleeping with Nina, but he doesn't have the balls to stop his lust for his own daughter. THE QUIET could have been easily written as a one-sided view on a serious issue. But after seeing both sides, we sympathize with both characters because it's real.
I think what really makes the film work is the Dot character herself. At first, we're not sure if she's deaf or not because of her constant internal monologue. But we soon learn she can hear and speak just fine, using the guise as a way to feel connected to other people, even if it's a negative way to do it. When people do find out about it, some are betrayed while others manipulate the situation. Seeing things through her perspective as an outsider being brought in against her will is refreshing and a great way to see these characters for who they really are and not for what they project back to us. Sociology 101 here and the screenplay uses it well.
I also liked the fact that the High School scenes were believably realistic. No stereotypical High School drama here. These characters acted like real teenagers at an environment that many of us found awkward and cruel for the most part. When the characters like someone, they really express it in ways regular people would. When they don't like someone, they're forward with their snide remarks towards that person. I never had this issue in High School [maybe Junior High School] but I know a lot of people experienced situations like this. It wasn't satiric or a spoof of High School life. This is the real deal here and I'm sure some people will have flashbacks as they watch these certain scenes.
I do think the narrative was a bit too predictable at times and the twist and turns could have been handled better. The final twist, especially, I saw coming the moment the situation before it took place. Wasn't a surprise at all and I pretty much called how it would all play out. Plus, some of the choices the characters made were a bit off for me and I asked myself, "Would real people in a similar situation make the same boneheaded moves these characters made?" It seemed the decisions were more coincidental than anything. Sometimes life is like that but it didn't really feel organic to me.
I also thought the film wasn't sure whether it wanted to be a mainstream flick or an independent one. The visuals were really glossy and quite beautiful, but it took me out of the rawness of the issues that film were very concerned with. Instead of watching reality play out, it felt more movie-like in nature. It's
Speaking of Babitt, who directed BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER, delivered a nice film here. While the glossy look took a bit away from the film, it was still very atmospheric, moody, and sexy visually all at the same time. The film had nice pacing, stylish shots that went well with the scene they were used in, and the editing was very tight. Can't really say anything negative about it. Just nice and subtle.
The acting was also very nice as well. Camilla Belle pretty much proves how wasted she was in the WHEN A STRANGER CALLS remake and 10,000 B.C. as she acts more than adequate here. She played the isolated and vulnerable Dot really well, as I bought every second of her performance. She needs to do more roles like this. Another actress who proved they can act as long as they're given good material is Elisha Cuthbert. She was unlikable at first, but Cuthbert brings such a vulnerably and sadness to Nina that you're on her side by the end of the film. She handled all the emotional scenes perfectly and showed how talented she really is. She also looked great in her undies of course, but she acted her ass off too. Edie Falco and Martin Donovan were very good in their supporting roles as the parents. They could have been written very stereotypical and one-dimensional, but the two actors really flesh out the characters as best as possible. I was convinced by each one and while they had their issues, I still understood where they were coming from. Shawn Ashmore was very good as the love interest for Dot and Katy Mixon was so convincing as Nina's obnoxiously cold-hearted bitch friend that I was hoping something bad would happen to her. She was that good.
THE FINAL HOWL
In my honest opinion, I think more people should speak up about THE QUIET. It's a well-acted, nicely directed, and occasionally gripping film with some very mature subject matter that's handled quite well. It's not perfect and some things probably didn't work as intended, but I think it's worth a watch if you haven't caught this film yet.