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Silent Fall

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: John Lithgow, J.T. Walsh, Liv Tyler, Ben Faulkner

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

The usually reliable actor Richard Dreyfuss stars in Bruce Beresford's 1994 movie SILENT FALL. Beresford has made some wonderful films. I have never seen one of his pictures that I would not recommend and most are highly memorable. I will never forget his DRIVING MISS DAISY, CRIMES OF THE HEART, TENDER MERCIES, or one of my personal favorites of his, BLACK ROBE.

Dreyfuss is good in SILENT FALL and except for LET IT RIDE and ALWAYS, I have found his work superb. I thought he was unconvincing in ALWAYS and everyone was awful in LET IT RIDE.

In SILENT FALL, rich parents are killed in their bedroom. Some mysterious stranger hacked them both to death with a knife. Sheriff Mitch Rivers (J. T. Walsh) discovers their bloody bodies and finds their young autistic son Tim Warden (Ben Faulkner) in their bedroom holding the knife and with blood all over him. They find his teenage sister Sylvie (Liv Tyler - star of STEALING BEAUTY) in the closet, knocked out and bloody. The boy is out of control so they call in child therapist Jake Rainer (Richard Dreyfuss) to get the knife from him.

Right away there are many mysteries. Since the stab wounds are done with much force, the boy is ruled out as the killer as is the girl since she was unconscious. So who is the mysterious stranger, and why didn't he kill the boy and the girl?

Since only the boy saw the killer and since he doesn't talk, Jack is asked to work with him in an attempt to ascertain the truth. Thinking Jack is not moving fast enough, the sheriff turns to Dr. Harlinger (John Lithgow) who uses drugs to induce memory recollection.

Jack and the doctor do not trust each other. Moreover, there is something hidden in Jack's past, and the doctor seems to be hiding something himself as does the sheriff. Rapidly the audience becomes convinced that no one may be exactly whom they claim to be. Ambiguity lurks everywhere.

The movie is about the quest for the facts behind the murders. The script by Akiva Goldsman is intelligent and unpredictable. The performance by Dreyfuss and Faulkner are marvelous. Dreyfuss crafts a character with whom it is easy to empathize. He tries so hard to break the boy's shell, and yet he loves him at the same time. Faulkner is equally great as a walking enigma.

Liv Tyler gives a pedestrian performance, but at least better than her vacuous one in STEALING BEAUTY. One wonders if she has any acting talent at all. Lithgow overacts as is his propensity unless carefully directed. Walsh plays the same character he has played many times before and does not change it.

The mystery keeps the viewer riveted to the screen. Small details like the background noise moving from silence to nature sounds to storms enhance the thriller aspect. I am sad to report that the end turns into a low grade horror film and almost sinks the entire picture. Why they did this is beyond me. It is not necessary. At any rate the rest of the show is captivating.

SILENT FALL runs 1:46. It is rated R. There are gory images, violence, some bad language, sexual situations, but no sex or nudity. The show would be fine for any teenager, but not for anyone younger. I recommend the show even with its schlock ending and give it ** 1/2. With a better quality ending, I would have rated it higher.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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