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Review: Wall of Silence (2004)

Directed by: Christopher Menaul | 97 minutes | , | Actors: James Nesbitt, , , Jay Simpson, Stephanie Leonidas, , Calum Callaghan, , , , , , , , Emory Ruegg

In a synopsis, the marketing department of a movie distributor sometimes likes to sprinkle terms like “fantastic ” or “terrifyingly exciting”. Often the in question turns out to be nothing more than a well-intentioned, but deadly boring B-movie. The TV movie “Wall of Silence” is the upside-down world. The production is described by the distributor as “gripping”, but this film is so much more than that. “Wall of Silence” is not only oppressive, it is also a call for humanity.

In the movie by director Christopher Menaul you are introduced to father and son Robe. After his mom and dad divorce, Jamie (Callaghan) tries to mend a fragile relationship with his grumpy dad. Father Stuart (Nesbitt) enjoys his son’s rapprochement attempt and gradually the bond between the two seems to be growing. But then fate strikes. When 17-year-old Jamie walks home sick and tired after a visit to his sister, he and his mate are attacked by a gang. After a few insults from the intoxicated Jamie, the loitering youths stop all the stops. The boy is kicked to death. The victim’s calls in the involved police officer Tony Cottis (Davis). Together they try to tackle the perpetrators. Only there is a problem: nobody dares to testify against the gang. While dozens have seen Jamie’s murder, no one has the guts to stand up to the youngsters.

“Wall of Silence” is based on a true story and that makes the film extra poignant. Menaul impressively manages to avoid the pitfalls of the melodramatic genre and that has resulted in a special film. The print quickly gets under your skin because of the realistic representation of the story. “Wall of Silence” sharply sketches the tragic story that preceded the film. You get to know the Robe family as decent people with the necessary problems. The policeman who leads the murder investigation is not a one-dimensional hero either. The witnesses to Jamie’s senseless death are a bunch of selfish scares. In short: you look at real people. The director portrays the story in a sober way. No character is predominantly likeable. Thus Stuart insults the people he loves and drowns in self-pity. Understandable emotions, but if you hear him rant at the policeman who wants to help him, you might want to calm him down. Cottis is also not a stereotypical detective, the man is obsessed with the murder case and neglects his family. The witnesses, on the other hand, are people who act more out of selfishness than out of humanity. Still, most characters deserve your sympathy, because their emotions are empathic. Menaul does not point with a pedantic finger.

The acting is without a doubt the great strength of this film. Nesbitt in particular is fantastic in his role as a traumatized father who slips further and further into a web of pain and self-pity. The actor portrays his role in an intense way, letting the scorching pain of loss splash off your screen. Nesbitt gets a good counterbalance from Davis. The policeman is constantly overcome with doubts, because things just do not go ahead. The witnesses are reluctant to make it to court. The fear of revenge actions by the youth gang is real. Davis knows how to convincingly portray the gnawing uselessness and obsession of his character. A third important role is played by Leonidas. The actress first stood out in the fairytale “MirrorMask” where she played a sweet girl. In “Wall of Silence” she manages to convince in a completely different role, namely as an ordinary street girl who plays an important key role as a witness. Even the extras who turn their faces away from the murder, shaking their heads, make an impression.

This is not a simple, romanticized movie: This is reality. “Wall of Silence” shows what murder does to people. Families are disrupted, consciences begin to play, and old wounds are ripped open. The most disturbing thing about this movie is that screenplay repeats almost every weekend. Menaul gives the victims a voice by highlighting the consequences of their deaths. “Wall of Silence” calls for humanity and justice. Doing the right thing is never easy, but it is necessary. “Wall of Silence” makes you think about moral choices. What would you do: avert your gaze in silence or follow your conscience with all its consequences? Apathy is an understandable emotion, but it cannot be justified nonetheless. A senseless death like Jamie Ro’s be nobody deserves. Penetrating message in an impressive film.

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