SANTA BARBARA –“Silent Victim” begs the question, “Why?” The project’s genesis is confusing in light of the numerous and often more penetrating dramatizations of the abortion issue done over the past several years on television. While the subject is far from exhausted, the implausible, heavy-handed treatment it’s given here makes for an uncompelling big-screen attempt. The film was shot in the fall of 1991 and it’s no puzzle why it’s been sitting around since then. Expect an if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it theatrical run.
Although it seems to take eons to get there, the central conflict of the film is intriguing: A husband sues his wife for murder in the unwitting abortion of her fetus in a failed suicide attempt.
The recent pendulum swing toward freedom of choice doesn’t signal the end of this battle. And advocates on both sides of the issue are constantly searching for ingenious legal boomerangs.
As far-fetched as this one is, compelling dramas have been built around flimsier premises. But the road to quick video release is paved with good intentions.
Director Menahem Golan repeatedly underlines the fact that abortion is a legal, moral and emotional quagmire.
But dramatically speaking, the film is peopled with cardboard stereotypes on the right and left, and more soap-opera elements than a month of “All My Children.”
Further, the Georgia setting allows for a number of implicit and explicit slams at Southerners, black andwhite alike.
The one stroke of good fortune is the casting of Michelle Greene as the victimized wife. Her part is poorly structured and she is a bit of a simp, but Greene is intermittently moving and real.
No one else in the film is that lucky, given dialogue so obtuse that it sounds as if they recited it phonetically since they couldn’t make any dramatic sense of it.
Nelly Adnil and Jonathan Platnick’s screenplay, from a Bob Spitz story, calls to mind a line uttered by one of the wronged characters in the film –“There ought to be a law.” Same goes for William T. Stromberg’s score.
Cinematography by David Max Steinberg is too glossy, doing a disservice to Cecilia Vettraino’s on-target set decoration. Editing by Bob Ducsay is about as subtle as it can be, given the preponderance of up-the-nostril close-ups with which he had to work.