THE BAY OF SILENCE ** UK 2020 Dir: Paula van der Oest. 93 mins
It is delightful when one sees someone getting their break with a feature film. Hollywood is ripe with actors that dip behind the camera to either write or direct, sometimes acting in the same project. Wearing three hats is a responsibility that is hard and it fails with writer Caroline Goodall in The Bay of Silence (2020) and her cohorts.
The combination of new writer Goodall and Dutch director Paula van der Oest, who worked mostly in television series and short films, spells doom. The result is a confusing script with no “spine,” making for dull viewing. Add to this film book author Lisa St Aubin de Terán’s input and you have a mess that calls out for editing content, further development and focus. Unfortunately, The Bay of Silence (2020) is given to a paying audience and it should not have been released. If there were script battles with new pages coming each day, directorial choices in conflict or doing things on the fly, it is immaterial as it boils down to what’s on the screen. It is not pretty.
The Bay of Silence (2020) is a drama in which characters are driven to their breaking point by horrible events. They seem to remain detached despite this. Plot wise, the picture begins with a stark prologue of a young scantily glad girl running in the woods at night carrying a metal case that she places in a cave. The girl is caught from behind by a young boy. The girl’s face is freeze famed in a scream, followed by a dissolve to the panoramic vistas of the lovely cove in Italy (surprisingly called the Bay of Silence). The prologue sequence will come into the plot later if one is still around to understand why.
Standing in the crystal clear waters, we have Will (Claes Bang) and Rosalind (Olga Kurylenko), an artist with young twin daughters. They are the carefree if not clichéd happy, affluent couple on holiday: laughing, sleeping late, eating local delicacies, enjoying public sex against a wall, only to be disturbed by a child retrieving a ball. It is their version of life on the edge and predictably, Rosalind becomes pregnant. Their blended family moves into a huge London house. The “Life of Riley” takes a turn for the worse when the pregnant Rosalind falls from a height while trying to photograph the family in the backyard. The result is a miscarriage and the loss of one of the twins that Rosalind believes she was carrying. Will does not share this belief.
After the birth of her son Rosalind begins acting strangely, manic and paranoid, scratching off little strips of wallpaper at night. Will returns from a business trip to find Rosalind has vanished with the kids. Through some twists and turns, Will tracks her down to a remote beach house in France, where something terrible has happened with a baby pram. Elements of photographs, wrongly imprisoned people and a child sexual assault all figure in developments that never seem to work well together.
The Bay of Silence (2020) becomes muddled with storylines, and thankless characters resulting in to many red herrings. When the mystery is solved it is anti-climactic.
The thankless, undeveloped characters are Rosalind’s ex-stepdad, the rich and powerful art collector Milton (Brian Cox). He comes off as the all-knowing, all wise safety valve character that steps into to save the day with sage advice or wads of cash. Writer Caroline Goodall appears as Marcia who comes on to Will at a party, inviting him to see her sometime and slipping her address into his back pocket. Will later goes to ask for information about Rosalind at her job (exotic dancer in a club). Marcia gets him in a clinch with an odd result.
The story is not sure what it wants to be; a thriller, a mystery or a Horror picture and that is the result of a rookie screen writer and a director more comfortable in television and short films then the sprawl of a feature. Interestingly, the fact that this is a female driven film – female writer, director, even actor Olga Kurylenko listed as producer – The Bay of Silence fails because it is told from the male perspective of Will.
Danish actor Claes Bang (Dracula in the BBC’s three part Dracula adaptation) does little with the role of Will. He struts about looking suitably confused yet calm (perhaps like the audience is while watching the picture). Rosalind (Olga Kurylenko), a former Bond girl from Quantum of Solace, gives a performance like acting students trying to stretch a role. Her post-partum decent and high intensity scenes come across as being a learned experience with little depth.
The Bay of Silence (2020) suffers from a confused screenplay, poor direction and execution and lack luster on screen performances by the leads. The saving grace is the natural beauty of the Italian locations and the wasted Alice Krige in the role of Rosalind’s mother Vivian. Kirge works hard and gives her limited moments some truth, and she comes off as the cosmopolitan female doing her best.
This brings me to a point about female film makers and film makers in general. I believe you should not get a job because you are a man or woman, rather you must have the skills. It is clear the film makers did not have that in The Bay of Silence (2020). Yes, give people opportunities to learn but do not put the result on screen for a paying audience. We do not need to see learning experiences on screen for wide release.
If you want to see the best version of The Bay of Silence (2020), watch the trailer as it is tautly edited versus the feature film.
Review by Terry Sherwood