SILENCIO (2018)

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , ,

UK Release Date – TBC

Stories about strange meteorites usually come in one or two flavours; the kind with cosmic horror or the schlock filled variety. Lorena Villarrea’s sci-fi drama on the other hand has something far more ambitious in mind, with a story that spans several decades. The film also branches into multiple genres as it goes on, from the appearance of a kidnapping subplot to the inclusion of a character that thinks they’re a spirit medium. It’s an unwieldy end product to say the least. But there’s a solid amount of heart in the narrative and at least one or two interesting ideas. Does all of the time hopping and tonal inconsistency eventually come together in a satisfying way, or is this just proof that sometimes less is more?

The title of the story comes from the so-called ‘Zone of Silence’ in Mexico, where magnetic anomalies cause meteors to fall and aircraft communications to be disrupted. At first it seems as though the film will be about scientists working here, after a rocket test launched from White Sands crashes in 1970. Dr. James White (John Noble) is part of a team looking for the remains of the device after it scatters radioactive debris across the area. He’s recently lost his family who were killed in a car accident and his mind isn’t on the work. But the final piece of cobalt to be collected has reacted strangely with a piece of meteorite metal, melting to form a strange rock. After touching it by mistake he moves through what is apparently a rift in time and space, saving his granddaughter.

It’s an odd start to the proceedings and things only get more confusing as it goes along. In modern day Mexico his granddaughter Ana (Melina Matthews) now works as a therapist. Her client Matthew (Michel Chauvet) can apparently see ghosts which will be convenient for the story later on, especially for exposition and plot twists. Meanwhile James has entered a catatonic state and is unable to speak or recognise those around him. Eventually all of this will come around and become linked to the mystery metal, which unfortunately becomes more and more of a magic rock as things progress. If you were unclear about the nature of the meteor zone don’t worry, James’s old colleague Peter (Rupert Grave) is here to deliver a whole lecture on the subject.

But is it a ghost story or is it science fiction? It’s never clear what the focus should be. Things become even more muddled when a third element arrives in the form of a criminal who wants the stone. A ticking clock element to make things more engaging would usually be quite welcome. However it’s just another random story development that comes out of nowhere. Often it’s somehow too meandering and too rushed all at the same time. Sometimes James is lucid and sometimes he just sits around staring into space. Sometimes it’s 1970 and sometimes it’s a time when Ana was a girl and they had to support one another. The number of disparate ideas in the script is never helped by the stop and start editing that jumps around like this so often.

Simply putting all of this in its proper chronological order might have helped considerably. But on the other hand the story is still about ghosts leading the way to a magic rock. James has hidden it and can’t remember where. There might be a kind of Butterfly Effect style thriller to be made from all of this. The random brutality in the third act when Ana’s life starts to fall apart might have lent this a new perspective. There are plenty of examples of this being done right, and the movie has plenty of the usual tropes to work with. Maybe the budget restricted how much actual cause and effect time travel could be depicted. On the other hand this could be done with even less money if the narrative was tighter.

The story does have a solid emotional core and the two leads deliver fairly good performances, even if the supporting cast is far more shaky. John Noble and Melina Matthews work well together during their brief scenes as a family. The flashbacks that use a lighter touch are more effective than the bigger more melodramatic scenes. If it was all just about Ana and James dealing with their shared grief it could work. It could afford to lose the sillier moments and they could have even worked her job as a therapist into the mix. But instead the story is still about a mystical stone that can somehow change past events. Maybe it can also help see the dead. But only at certain times of day? And it comes with a personal cost that is never defined.

The results are weirdly nonsensical and its shortcomings undermine the moments that actually work. The conclusion uses way too much voice over narration and yet somehow doesn’t really explain anything. Although interestingly one of the later twists is still quite predictable. If it was just a ‘Monkey’s Paw’ style morality tale this could work, but the same could be said if this was purely science fiction. The characters seem to be making wishes on the stone after all. But when there’s so much technical talk about radiation and magnetic fields it’s hard to make out what they were going for. Again most of this could be solved if more scenes were simply presented in a logical order. It might not be cohesive but it would be an improvement. Someone should go back in time and make the editor fix it.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

About Mocata (Rich C) 115 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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