A Silence – movie review

A dark family secret explodes in Joachim Lafosse’s disturbing drama A Silence.

Astrid Schaar (Emmanuelle Devos) has said nothing about the deeply disquieting matter for 30 years, but a figure from the past triggers massive concern. Astrid’s renowned, media-savvy lawyer husband Francois (Daniel Auteuil) has been fighting an incendiary, high-profile case for five years. He represents the parents of two abducted children, and reporters are camped outside his home eager to capture his every word.

Francois and Astrid are cocooned in a life of privilege but there’s clearly tension between the couple … and it dates back decades. The pair has two children, grown-up daughter Caroline (Louise Chevilllotte), who implores her mother to say something, and an adopted teenage son. The son, Raphael (Matthieu Galoux), has been wagging school and faces expulsion. So, fires have to be fought on several fronts and, ultimately, there is no escaping the bitter truth.

A Silence is a disquieting exploration of family, duty, complicity and coercive control. What makes it even more shocking is that it was inspired by real events that rocked France and Belgium. I was suitably appalled by what I saw unfolding, but my biggest criticism of the film comes down to the tortuously slow (I would say wallowing) and obscure start. I understand that the filmmakers clearly wanted to stretch out “the big reveal”, but suspect by the time it comes, some of the audience may not have stuck around. And that’s a pity, because the story has real bite from that point on.

Mystery is one thing, but obfuscation is another and that’s what I felt was happening at first. My sentiments weren’t helped by the darkness in many of the scenes. Perhaps that was a theatrical device, but that too became frustrating.  Having said that, I would still like to recommend A Silence because – as disgusting and scandalous a story as it is – it deserves to be told.

The internalised acting performance of Emmanuelle Devos gives the movie strength. The character is a woman who has endured so much. Daniel Auteuil, too, is well cast as the suave and astute legal eagle carrying a massive burden. Matthieu Galoux is quite believable as an aloof youngster trying to find a way through.

So, please stick with A Silence because the pay-off for doing so does come, only it takes its time to get there.

Alex First

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