It is difficult to discuss The Quiet (2005) without reference to its first key plot twist, so before beginning I must provide the SPOILER ALERT! with assurances that this is a perfectly casted, finely acted, extremely well written drama; & if you're inclined toward dour, serious, artful films with a touch of the gruesome & a whole lot of emotional impact, this is the film to see, you need read no further reviews to be assured of a superb movie. But now for my overview:
Dot (Camilla Belle) had only her father, a deaf mute like herself. He recently died & she was sent to live with her godparents & their daughter Nina (Elisha Cutbert). Dot is lovely, outcast, depressed, & pretty much without mutual communication since no one in her new family does sign language.
Her new "sister" Nina is a bully who makes life in her new home & at school an even lonelier hell. Nina is the supreme bitch, but before it's over, you'll feel so much in her favor.
Because she can't hear or speak, family & friends begin to reveal their most dysfunctional traits, unloading all their secrets. SPOILER #1 But as viewers are apt to guess early on, even if they evaded reading the dvd box or spoiler reviews, it turns out indeed to be the case, she is not honestly a deaf mute.
Her own secret is that she's a fine young pianist, & the game of her being a deaf mute was something that began with her dad, who really was deaf.
It started when she was seven, shortly after Dot's mother died, when to cope with loss & be closer to her father, she entered her dad's wordless world & never left.
The mom in the household, Olivia (Edie Falco), is addicted to prescription medications & usually at least half disconnected from what's going on in her house. If there'd ever been a time in her life when she'd be apt to intervene in behalf of the youngsters under her care, she's just too wasted to be of any use now. And yet she does have some surprises in store for the climax, & Falco proves to me again she's one of our greatest if insufficiently heralded actresses.
Bitchy, cruel, two-faced Nina at first seems so unsympathetic, but soon Dot in her own silent manner becomes Nina's protector. For Nina's father Paul (Martin Donovan with another brilliant performance to his credit) is SPOILER #2 a longstanding child molestor, who facilitates his wife's addiction so he can sneak off to Nina's room at night.
A cute boy at school, Connor (Shawn Ashmore, who'll be familiar to Smallville fans), catches Dot after regular classes alone in the music room playing piano.
But sometimes the deaf relate to music's vibrations, so while it's kind of dim of him, he's not even then convinced she can hear, so like others around her, he reveals things to her he'd never say if he knew how perfectly she was taking it in, embarassing masturbation fantasies & other aspects of a boy's filthy mind, even the mind of a gentle kind boy like himself.
Connor becomes the only good thing in Dot's life, as she is otherwise shunned at school, & distressed by what she sees at home. At home she's only barely treated as even present.
SPOILER #3 It's all leading to a horrific, explosive moment in Dot's efforts to protect Nina, & in the wake of catastrophe, what the drug-addled mother finally does to protect her daughter & god-daughter. My jaw dropped in awe of the perfect blend of horror & heroism.
END SPOILER ALERTS For whatever fool reason, the distributors of this film decided on posters & dvd boxes to imply sinisterly lesbian femme fatale action, which could not be further from the reality of the film. So I'd worry the wrong audience will grab this one & it won't have the full appreciation it merits.
Indeed, its accumulative reviews indicate it did not reach the right audience. After I wrote my own overview in first-draft, I checked out if other critics agreed with me what a fine work this is. A few did, but a large percentage thought not.
To me this film achieved an amazing balance of "family drama" turning into a "thriller" without losing the purely emotional content -- a blance of intelligence & suspense that is damnably rare in cinema.
It appears that critics who expected only a thriller found its seriousness pompous or its focus on emotional landscapes insufficiently exciting; whereas the critics who expected after the first act for it to remain only a family drama worthy of the Hallmark Channel found the subject matter & final events repulsively devoid of redeeming content.
Okay, I admit it, I prefer revolting to maudlin & happy-ever-after family dramas turn my stomach, so this one may have been ready-made for me to enjoy. It even so strikes me as a film challenging for revealing something all too true of American "family" life, which virtually never achieved an ideal state while frequently being hellish.
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