By Will Barber Taylor
The Silent Child centres around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.
The Silent Child is a powerful film about acceptance and about how society can and should change to help those who have disabilities, rather than ignoring them and making them feel as if they are not valuable members of society. At its centre is Libby (Maisie Sly) who is attempting to prepare for entering school with the help of a social worker, Joanne (Rachel Shenton). It is this central, bittersweet dynamic which is the heart of the film’s emotional journey. Joanne’s desire to help Libby and her inability to do so because Libby’s mother Sue (Rachel Fielding) thinks she knows best is beautifully written by Rachel Shenton; Shenton conveys both the brief happiness Libby has and her ultimate despair with profound thoughtfulness and subtlety.
Maisie Sly utterly steals the show as Libby. She perfectly portrays the character, utterly making it her own. She expresses with great thoughtfulness the inner feelings of a child in that sort of situation; she has a true gift for acting and I predict she has a great future ahead of her, if she chooses to peruse it. Rachel Shenton gives a fantastic performance as Joanne. Her portrayal of Joanne is integral to helping us to gain sympathy for her and Libby; she makes the bond between Libby and her character seem so real that it makes us feel like the situation could happen anywhere, at any time. Shenton should get as many plaudits as possible, not only for her amazing performance but also for her phenomenal writing.
Chris Overton’s directing is stunning, and he brings a sense of intimacy to the film, helping to build up our relationship with Libby and Joanne. Some of his long shots are gorgeous in their portrayal of the natural beauty of the countryside and he allows us to truly feel as if we are peeking in on a situation that could be happening to millions of children across the world.
The Silent Child is a heartfelt exploration of what it means to grow up deaf and how we can and should tackle deafness, to ensure that the children who have the condition never feel inhibited or disadvantage. Rachel Shenton has produced a beautiful, profound and important film that I would recommend you all go and see.