You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Song of Silence

A plaintive ballad about a hearing-impaired teenager trying to find her place in a fractured family.

With: Yin Yaning, Wu Bingbin, Li Qiang, Yu Xuan, Tang Hui, Feng Zhaofa, Xie Zhihong.

“Song of Silence” is a plaintive ballad about a hearing-impaired teenager trying to find her place in a fractured family. First-time helmer Chen Zhuo demonstrates tact and perceptiveness when exploring his protag’s fragile inner world as she stumbles to make sense of and assert her blossoming sexuality. Regrettably, however, the film’s crass stylistic pretensions frequently jar with the low-key realism achieved by his quietly engaging characters, finely tuned non-professional perfs and vividly evoked southern-central Chinese setting, muffling the helmer’s message and individual voice. Pic is unlikely to blossom beyond fest play.

Hearing-impaired Jing (Yin Yaning) attends a regular school in a fishing village and is being raised by her single mother (Tang Hui), but doesn’t get along with Mom’s new b.f. When Jing is deemed inappropriately close to her mentally challenged uncle (Yu Xuan), she is sent to live temporarily with her estranged father, policeman Zhang Haoyang (Li Qiang). Neither Zhang nor Mei (Wu Bingbin), his pregnant club-singer g.f., is thrilled to have her around, though the awkward thawing of the trio’s relations is played out to riveting and moving effect in scenes that include angry brawls, meaningful silences and songs full of longing.

Proud and petulant, yet at times revealing flashes of deep love and tenderness, Jing is a complex character, yet she could be any girl on the cusp of womanhood. Neither focusing on her disability nor painting her as an object of pity, Yin allows Jing to bloom by developing a range of emotions and non-verbal self-expression. Meanwhile, Mei, a sexually bold misfit, turns out to be needier and more childlike than Jing; Wu contrasts strongly with her mute counterpart in a self-centered role that avoids tipping over into obnoxiousness.

Drawing on a real incident, Chen clearly gets under his characters’ skin, but his use of the kind of one-size-fits-all lensing and editing techniques typical of China’s independent filmmakers proves a poor fit with the non-pro cast’s excellent, naturalistic playing. Unable to find his own voice, the helmer forces in magical elements, like recurring images of dead goldfish and a tacky dream sequence.

Shot in Chen’s native Changsha (capital of Hunan province) and Xiangtan (Mao Zedong’s hometown), lenser Shi Yue juxtaposes the city’s urban buzz with reposeful images of Yangmeizhou (the pic’s Chinese title), the lone isle in the center of the mist-cloaked Xiang River. Tech credits are passable.

Popular on Variety

Song of Silence


Production: A Harvest Films release of a Beijing Tiger Entertainment and Media Co. presentation and production in association with Harvest Films Prod. Co. Produced by Liu Gang. Executive producer, Lai Yifan. Co-producer, Ouyang Sijie. Co-executive producer, Yu Zhong. Directed, edited by Chen Zhuo. Screenplay, Chen Haoyang, Zeng Peilin, Chen.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Shi Yue; music, Jiang Anqing; music supervisor, Li Xiang; art director, Zhang Xiaodi; costume designer, Wang Hailong; sound (Digital 5.1 stereo), Gao Yu, Song Tianxiang; supervising sound editor, Hu Tinglan; re-recording mixers, Huang Hao, Liang Dan; visual effects, Tiger Entertainment and Media Co, Homeboy Effects; line producer, Chen Zhuo; assistant director, Zeng Peilin. Reviewed at Udine Far East Film Festival, April 23, 2012. Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Yin Yaning, Wu Bingbin, Li Qiang, Yu Xuan, Tang Hui, Feng Zhaofa, Xie Zhihong.

More Film

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

  • Joaquin Phoenix'Joker' film premiere, Arrivals, 57th

    Film News Roundup: Joaquin Phoenix Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Joaquin Phoenix is honored for “Joker”; Legion M backs Joe Manganiello’s “Archenemy”; sales have launched on “Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper”; Warner Bros. shuffles execs and Universal launches a first-of-its-kind animation writing program. HONOR Joaquin Phoenix has been selected as the recipient of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s chairman’s [...]

  • Danny Huston

    Danny Huston Discusses the Significance of 'Last Photograph'

    In the decades since Danny Huston made his feature directing debut with “Mr. North,” his 1988 film adaptation of the Thornton Wilder novel “Theophilus North,” he has kept busy in front of the cameras as one of film and television’s most versatile and sophisticated character players. In just the past year, small-screen viewers have been [...]

  • Rocketman

    'Rocketman': Chris Dickens Discusses the Inside Story of Editing 'I'm Still Standing'

    Endings are so important and how the viewer leaves the cinema is crucial. For editor Chris Dickens, finding the perfect ending for “Rocketman” was paramount, but it was also a challenge. Elton John’s hit “I’m Still Standing” was going to end the film with the original idea of going to Cannes to recreate the video [...]

  • A general view of the skyline

    United Media Asia Strikes Deal With Indonesian Giant Kompas Gramedia

    Newly-formed content finance, production and distribution company United Media Asia has struck a first look deal, brokered by Hollywood talent agency CAA, with Indonesian media giant Kompas Gramedia. United has also unveiled its first two feature films. The partnership provides UMA with access to Kompas Gramedia’s media network and its 100,000 pieces of intellectual property, [...]

  • Taron Egerton Fashion

    Taron Egerton's Stylist Used Elton John as Inspiration on Press Tour

    Showstopping looks: For Taron Egerton’s “Rocketman” tour, stylist Gareth Scourfield nodded to Elton John’s iconic wardrobe with bold colors, patterns and silhouettes: “We got a bit more eccentric.” May 16 “Elton is the real original showman,” says Scourfield, who met Egerton through another client, Egerton’s “Rocketman” co-star Richard Madden. “Part of Taron as a man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content