By Steph Cannon
There are moments in our lives when we are placed in a situation where something doesn’t feel quite right. It isn’t so much an obvious threat, but more an intuitive feeling of our environment being off. SILENCE AND DARKNESS takes this reaction and delves deep into the psychological aspects of it. It’s a one-two punch where both the characters within the film and the viewer are immersed in that feeling, but for very different reasons.
Written, Directed, and Produced by Barak Barkan, the film centers around two sisters; Anna (Mina Walker), who is blind, and Beth (Joan Glackin), who is deaf. The two share a codependent, symbiotic relationship, relying exclusively on a unique form of sign language into each others’ hands to communicate. There are no subtitles when they use this tactile method, but this only highlights the actresses’ ability to expertly portray body language and facial expressions to convey what is being said between them. They go about their daily lives as an inseparable pair cooking, translating TV programs to one another, and learning to sing and play guitar.
They live an idyllic yet isolated life in a secluded home with their Physician father (Jordan Lange), who on the surface appears as a devoted, loving caretaker. The first establishing moments of the movie focus entirely on the nuances of the relationship between the three, from family dinners to singing sessions, lulling the audience into a false sense of security with the cocoon of their world.
All of this is just a thinly veiled veneer, however, as we are slowly and subtly shown the dark reality of the dynamic the sisters have with their father. One of the ways the movie truly shines is through this reveal and the quiet, slow burn in which it all unfolds. It’s filmed primarily in static, stationary shots that linger on a scene just long enough to give the unsettling feeling that something is amiss. It’s a captivating way to draw the viewer in, and with a run time of only 81 minutes, not a single moment feels wasted. The absence of any kind of musical score only compounds the need to focus intently on each scene.
The realization that Father isn’t truly the dedicated parent he portrays himself to be is manifested during these scenes. First in indirect ways, like an uncomfortable moment between him and a patient, then growing much more sinister when he drugs both sisters, rendering them nearly comatose. The situation becomes direr when a neighbor shows up at their door frantically claiming to have found a bone from human remains on their property while walking her dog. It’s in this moment, combined with the progressive troubling behavior of Father, where Anna and Beth begin to piece together that not all is right in their world.
Revealing too much else about this movie would take away from the atmospheric narrative that plays through. The acting is superb, particularly with Walker and Glackin, who immerse themselves so much into the bond between Anna and Beth that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a movie and not an actual moment playing out in front of you.
The final minutes are surprising and jolting, emphasized by a chaotic, bold POV shot, which is a stark contrast from the methodical, muted pace leading up to that point. For every discovery along the way, there are just as many unanswered questions left in the wake, and the sudden rolling of the credits leaves you sitting in stunned contemplation. This is a story that will stick with you for days afterward, leaving you with that persistent sense of dread you still can’t quite put your finger on.
SILENCE AND DARKNESS is now available on VOD/Digital in the U.S. and Canada on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, as well as Direct TV, Dish Network, Vubiquity, and Deluxe Canada.