Review - 'Silence' by Jesmen Tan (La Salle's Putnam School of Film Showcase)

Robin is your run-of-the-mill angsty 16-year old teenage school boy who has an axe to grind and the bullying scene at the beginning of the film makes you makes you want to yawn to yet another film about school fights. While the subject matter is cliché, the filmmakers did demonstrate some thought into weaving the story, shedding light on the circularity of violence in people.

Witnessing how a younger schoolboy was bullied, Robin steps forward to defend him only to find himself outnumbered and beaten. Back home, he finds more of the same when his mum’s bruise on the side of her mouth surfaces under the light. Moral of the story #1 - Violence starts at home. 

The film is a modest attempt at telling a story about a struggle between fighting your enemies and letting it go. Modest, but it gets its point made, that what seems like the right (or rather righteous) thing to do, could be a trap. It is modest because it takes a simple, linear approach to telling the story, offers the minimum in artistic direction and adopts conventional and functional shots and framing. Save for a straight-talking bully who blends the vulgar with normal in speech seamlessly (who is was probably made for the role and not the other way round), this film is made up of elemental characters who help paint a clear picture and message the director wants to put across. Also, at best, they are very down-to-earth.

The other right thing the director has done is to keep the story short and succinct. While the film feeds so much on teenage rage, it does not indulge in it on a graphic level, but instead stays close to the story. And while the film does not seek to shock in its duration, it surprises at the end. It is not easy to put a lid on escalating violence. This one did it just on the right note, making peace right at the heart of where it came from – his own father. Moral of the story #2 – Storytelling does not always need to end with a bang.

Review by Jeremy Sing

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