Director: Corinna McFarlane
Cast: Damian Lewis, Andrea Riseborough and Ross Anderson
Running Time: 102 minutes
Release Date: May 13th
The Silent Storm is one of those films that defies description. To be truly enjoyed, it has to be experienced. Corinna McFarlane’s directorial debut stars Damian Lewis, normally highly entertaining to watch, and Andrea Riseborough, and is produced by 007 franchise head, Barbara Broccoli. It is billed as the story of the breakdown of a marriage between a pastor on a remote Scottish island, and his long-suffering wife. But that’s not what it is. Not really. What The Silent Storm turns out to be is a cinematic experience that entirely disregards expectations, plot, and, to tell the truth, sanity.
It opens with a long, single shot, soundtracked by booming, haunting choral music that tracks from Lewis’ preacher staring into the fire in the dead of night, up to his wife upstairs, writhing and shrieking in agony as she miscarries their child. As an opening, it is completely enticing, denoting a biblical undertone to their relationship, something demonic is almost played with in the firelight and the song. The music ends up less effective when it is used for pretty much anything else that happens later on.
In fact, the whole thing gets less and less effective as it continues. The miscarriage is intended, apparently, as the catalyst to a breakdown in their marital life, but, in their ridiculous Scottish accents (Riseborough’s seems to be based on the sleepy Scottish hamlet of Germany) they begin to show that it is quite literally unfathomable that these two people were ever happily married. Or happy. At all.
The main reason behind this is the usually great Damian Lewis. His character, Balor McNeil, is a maniac. He’s meant to represent the patriarchy, it would seem, but he is a fiery-eyed, rolling r’s, spitting lunatic who gets mad when people take baths, and stomps around in his jammies practising for mass. He seems to be a product of that school of writing that believes a character is more believable the darker they get. But he is such a strawman, talking to God and taking apart a church with his top off, that it’s impossible to find anything but hilarity in his behaviour.
It’s when Ross Anderson arrives on the island, with the only believable accent in Scotland, that we realise that what we’ve got here is chick lit. It does not appear, it should be established, as if Corinna McFarlane is aware of this fact, but when the outsider wife begins to form a friendship with the roguish, handsome young man over her angry, religious husband, it’s hard to find anything else here. It’s really just missing one specific aspect that would really cement it in that category. (Note that that aspect is not taking mushrooms and running around in the woods. This is something The Silent Storm is not missing.)
The Silent Storm is beautifully shot. The score is impressive, and all involved are clearly very talented. But it is so much worse than the sum of its parts. But go see it. In fact, if you can, don’t read this review, or any review, just go and experience it yourself. It is worth every penny, if only for the Father Ted bit where the couple are about to batter one another but are interrupted by a knock on the door.