The Quiet Room

on March 21, 2008 by Susan Green
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  &#160A child's-eye-view of a family coming unglued, "The Quiet Room" is an absorbing tale with a few annoying imperfections. Dutch-born Australian director Rolf de Heer falls short in his attempt to effectively provide the perspective of a young girl who has decided to stop speaking because her parents cannot stop fighting. An unnamed, moon-faced seven-year-old (Chloe Ferguson) recalls how much better things were when she was just three (a toddler played by real-life sibling Phoebe Ferguson). "Me when I was then," as she puts it in ongoing voiceover, lived with Mother (Celine O'Leary) and Father (Paul Blackwell) in a perfectly hap-hap-happy home seen through flashbacks.
  &#160Now, as the couple bickers in increasingly angry cycles, their silent daughter enacts clever subterfuges calculated to pull them back together. Failing that, she retreats to her bedroom to draw pointedly symbolic pictures that the adults are too distracted to understand. All she wants is to move to the country, get a puppy and make the dysfunction go away.
  &#160A sad portrait of people in pain, the film has several crucial elements that don't work well. The child is too wise and world-weary to be fully believable, and her folks are far too generic. When things are going smoothly, they're giddy; when matters are going poorly, the dimensions of their anguish seem predictable. On the plus side, de Heer and cinematographer Tony Clark offer some memorably visual moments when the child stages an all-Barbie wedding party, when she tries to hatch an unfertilized egg under a desk lamp, and when she rather gruesomely mimics Mother while the woman is applying makeup.
  &#160As divorce looms, the distraught girl ups the ante. Thankfully, "The Quiet Room" ends on a hopeful, though not necessarily feel-good, note. Starring Chloe Ferguson, Celine O'Leary, Paul Blackwell and Phoebe Ferguson. Directed and written by Rolf de Heer. Produced by Rolf de Heer and Giuseppe Pedersoli. A Fine Line release. Drama. Rated PG for language and thematic elements involving a child affected by domestic discord. Running time: 98 min. Screened at the Fort Lauderdale fest.
Tags: Chloe Ferguson, Celine O'Leary, Paul Blackwell, Phoebe Ferguson, Rolf de Heer, Giuseppe Pedersoli, Fine Line, Drama
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