“Silencio,” written and directed by Lorena Villarreal, is a film about the consequences of altering the past, unique in that the main character’s very existence is due to such an alteration. Ana (Melina Matthews) is a single mother and a psychiatrist in Mexico whose British parents and sister died in a car crash in the Zone of Silence when she was a child. She was raised by her scientist grandfather James (John Noble), whose mind has begun to slip towards dementia. First a clairvoyant patient named Daniel (Michel Chauvet) tells Ana that her sister’s ghost wants her to “find the stone” and then a shady young man working for a mysterious client comes to the house and demands that James give him the stone—an event that goes horribly wrong. (In fact, that young man has terrible luck: two people that he’s only supposed to harass end up dying on him.)
With the help of her grandfather’s old colleague, Peter (Rupert Graves), Ana learns that about a week after her family’s accident, he and James were in the Zone of Silence in order to help clean up the (real life) crash of an American test missile which was carrying the radioactive element, cobalt 57. Then at 3:33am, James accidentally grasped a chunk of this element AKA the stone in his bare hand, and suddenly he and Peter were transported to the moment when the family was killed. We learn that no one had survived the accident, but with this intervention James was able to save Ana before the car crash happened.
Despite the promising premise and solid performances by Noble and Graves, at this point, the story starts to unravel. The movie is well done in many ways; I enjoyed the fact that it seamlessly flows from English to Spanish, for instance, and the scene where Ana sees her sister’s ghost is lovely. The problem lies in the fact that the rules for the stone’s “magic” are never fully established.
Peter says that he and James experimented with the stone and discovered that if you save someone in the past, then someone else must take their place. His proof of this is that Ana’s grandmother died not long after they rescued Ana, but it’s not clear at all how they know this happened because Ana was saved. No other examples are given nor are any other results of their experiments, which must’ve involved more time travel and perhaps more traded deaths/lives? There would’ve been a lot of information in there necessary for the story.
There is a passing reference to the stone’s ability to give one clairvoyance, but it’s only purpose in the plot is so that Ana can see her sister’s ghost. In the end, there is a verbal battle at gunpoint over who has the right to use the stone to save whom, and who will most likely die as a trade-off. Peter insists that if he uses the stone to bring back his recently deceased daughter, he is the one who will probably die instead of her . . . But there is no apparent reason for him to believe that. And many people get hurt or killed based on this flimsy logic.
This is writer/director Villarreal’s second film, and it’s quite well done apart from these stumbles. I personally enjoyed the fact that the patient Daniel helps Ana dig up the stone and then inexplicably hangs around till the end; it’s an amusing role reversal when there’s a good-looking guy whose entire purpose is to help the heroine. Perhaps for her next movie though, Villarreal can team up with another writer and have a stronger story to work with. I look forward to seeing what she does next.