This post will contain spoilers so beware, wonderful readers!
I recently watched the new Netflix’s movie The Silence (2019), based on the novel of the same name by Tim Lebbon (published in 2015.) The film was directed by John R. Leonetti and stars Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, and John Corbett.
The plot of both revolves around the Andrews family, consisting of Mom, Dad, Grandma, Son and Daughter, trying to survive a plague of giant killer bats. True they aren’t really bats, they are called Vesps, but they do hunt by sound and originated from some caves.
That’s besides the point, though.
The movie and novel start right as the apocalypse starts and this family treks off, trying to find somewhere safe to stay. On the way, they encounter a crazy cult, have to kill their dog, and lose a friend as well as Grandma along the way. Like I said, spoilers.
The main gimmick, I guess, is that Daughter is deaf and somehow that makes it so they can survive this apocalypse better. (!?) There isn’t much difference between the Netflix adaptation and the novel, except these few major points:
- Mom and Dad die in the novel with it ending that Son and Daughter now have to fend for themselves on their own
- The movie wraps up happily by having the whole family (sans Grandma) make it to some northern haven which is a safe place because the Vesps hate getting all shivery
- The book cult wants Daughter because they think she’s super special by virtue of being deaf, the movie cult wants her because she’s fertile (Netflix, ew)
Straight off, I had a problem with one major thing – both in the novel, which I read first, and the movie: it’s blatantly presented that the deaf daughter is somehow better at living/surviving in this new dangerous world because she is deaf.
Let’s be honest here. A deaf person would have the worst time surviving in a world full of predators that target you if you make the slightest sound. I get that being able to know sign language would be helpful in communicating with others in the Vesp-World but anyone can learn to do that.
A deaf person, however, wouldn’t be able to hear if their feet were making noise as they crept through a forest or over gravel, they wouldn’t know if the door they just opened needs some oil, they wouldn’t know if the floorboards were loudly creaking as they tiptoed down a hallway!
I am not saying a deaf person shouldn’t have been written into a story like this, rather I think it should have highlighted her journey and the struggles she had to overcome to survive. Instead, she was framed as being this saviour/messiah, able to magically survive… somehow??
To highlight this point, there is a scene in the movie where the family has to get medicine so Dad and Daughter go to the nearby town. Vesps are, of course, infesting the local pharmacy so they have to come up with a distraction. To communicate, Daughter grabs Dad’s attention and points up. Dad somehow knows she is indicating the fire sprinkler.
So… what? Just not going to communicate effectively by using the ASL you know? Well, then.
It just feels like they really could have leveraged having a character who was deaf to add a deeper dimension of tension and growth, to highlight the difficulties she might face because she is deaf, and how knowing ASL really, truly helped them.
Another issue I had was with the Vesps themselves. They don’t seem to use echo location, I don’t remember them using it in the novel either, so how did they not crash into trees and other stationary objects? They seem to just listen, in the movie, they even spread their wings like little receptors. That’s fine, sure, why not. But then, how do they know where all the trees are?
Otherwise, it’s not a bad movie. Not the best. The acting was alright, the pacing was good, the cult’s portrayal was cool.
However, it’s just so hard to get over the two big problems I mentioned above, which made it so I couldn’t enjoy either the book or the movie at all.
A Quiet Place
To be honest, I watched The Silence, thinking it was A Quiet Place (2018), because I thought they were the same movie and were based off the novel. In the case of both, the plot is about a family trying to survive in a world infested with supernatural creatures that rely on sound to hunt and kill.
A Quiet Place was directed by John Krasinski and stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe.
I haven’t watched A Quiet Place, but from what I’ve read/heard, some major differences are that:
- The monsters in A Quiet Place are aliens who landed on Earth in a meteor shower versus The Silence’s cave-dwellers who came from, well, caves
- In A Quiet Place, Son dies and Daughter blames herself for it, even though apparently Son was stupid enough to put batteries in a loud toy (?!)
- Mom is pregnant and gives birth near the end of the climax in A Quiet Place
- A Quiet Place is set in the future, years after the appearance of the aliens
- The deaf daughter has a hearing aid which emits a piercing sound that drives the aliens away
I’m sure you can understand why I was confused considering both are about an apocalypse caused by monsters that hunt by sound and revolve around a family struggling to survive. Oh, and the family also has a deaf daughter.
For comparison, here are the descriptions of A Quiet Place and The Silence novel:
A Quiet Place: A family of four must live their lives in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
The Silence: The story of a family struggling to survive in a world terrorized by a deadly, primeval species who have bred for decades in the pitch darkness of a vast underground cave system, hunting only with their acute hearing.
I am not sure if I will watch A Quiet Place, just because I feel like it would have the same plot holes as The Silence. Overall: very disappointing!
If you have any thoughts about the novel, or either movies, let me know in the comments below!
Til next time,