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Silent Fall

Directed by Bruce Beresford. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Liv Tyler, Ben Faulkner, J.t. Walsh, Linda Hamilton, John Lithgow.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 4, 1994

For a while, the clues in the psychological drama Silent Fall are as subtle as autumn leaves dropping to the ground, but when the narrative turns lurid, the film becomes a little awkward. That's the trouble with most films of this ilk these days -- there's so much pressure to make the twists and turns leave you gasping that the storylines push the envelope of belief too hard. The gimmick here -- an autistic boy witnesses the brutal murder of his parents -- has fertile possibilities, but Akiva Goldsman's screenplay only touches upon them. Moreover, there are some gaping holes of logic here and there in his script: for example, why would the orphaned autistic boy and his teenage sister stay in the house in which their parents were just killed, allegedly by an unidentified man, without any police surveillance whatsoever? Director Beresford, a talented filmmaker with a penchant for making movies based on mediocre scripts, finds little suspense in this mystery, one in which the answer lies in the mind of someone who cannot communicate it. The acting is only so-so, with Dreyfuss relying on his old shtick (why always the hands in the pockets, Richard?) and others, such as Hamilton and Lithgow, completely wasted in one-dimensional roles. In the role of the sister, Tyler (the daughter of Aerosmith's lead singer Steven Tyler) demonstrates a tremulous beauty and strength; this is her first movie, but she may be going places. Although it's not a memorable film by any means, at least Silent Fall is a whodunit/whydunit in which the guilty party and the motive are not evident in the first 15 minutes. That's faint praise, indeed, but a welcome occasion, nevertheless.
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