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Movie Review

'Quiet Room' an Unusual, Taut Tale of Modern Woe


A different kind of suspense film, "The Quiet Room" takes place largely in the mind of a 7-year-old girl (Chloe Ferguson) who, for reasons only gradually explained, has stopped talking. And she's good at it. You can't trick me, we hear her think, as her mother (Celine O'Leary) or father (Paul Blackwell) pose questions that literally beg for answers. She resists their pleading, their anger, their wrath. She's driving them a little mad.

But "The Quiet Room," a deft bit of psychological business from Australia's Rolf de Heer, is about a world gone mad. It's the girl's world, granted, but since we're inside her head, it's all we have. And that's apt: As her parents go through the pains of eventual marital breakup, they're oblivious to the fact that what they're dismantling is their child's entire universe.

This isn't a moralizing film, per se, but it certainly puts a new slant on a subject taken for granted. The Girl (she has no name as such) flashes back to herself at age 3 (played by Ferguson's sister, Phoebe), wanting to be loved the way she was when she was little. Her rationale carries the self-absorbed logic of childhood: Her parents may have stopped loving each other, but by doing so they've unavoidably changed their love for their daughter.

"The Quiet Room" is one quiet movie--you adopt the Girl's silence, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there's a fault here, it's that the Girl--given a very affecting reading by Chloe Ferguson--swings a bit broadly from innocence to irony (not that kids aren't capable of it, but this is a movie). And when she thinks a line like, "You're hurting my heart," it may indeed be true, but it doesn't sound like it.

"The Quiet Room" is an odd film, a taut tale of modern woe that will leave you moved. "Are you and Dad making progress?" she asks her mother, having at last broken her code of silence, adopting the euphemistic language of adults and slipping away from us even as we watch.

* MPAA rating: PG for language and thematic elements involving a child affected by domestic discord. Times guidelines: may be upsetting to some children.


'The Quiet Room'

Celine O'Leary: Mother

Paul Blackwell: Father

Chloe Ferguson: The Girl, 7

Phoebe Ferguson: The Girl, 3

A Vertigo/Fandango production, released by Fine Line Features. Director Rolf de Heer. Producers Domenico Procacci, Rolf de Heer. Screenplay by Rolf de Heer. Cinematographer Tony Clark. Editor Tania Nehme. Music Graham Tardiff. Production design Fiona Paterson. Art director Beverley Freeman. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Samuel Goldwyn Pavilion Cinemas, Westside Pavilion, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 475-0202.

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