By: Emily von Seele
Lorena Villarreal’s Silencio is an interesting and emotional meditation on loss, grief, and a life lived.
Ana (Melina Matthews) lives a quiet life with her son, Felix (Ian Garci Monterrubio), and her grandfather, James (John Noble). Having lost her parents and sister at a young age in a car accident, Ana was raised by her grandfather and the two have become inseparable. Even as James’ health declines and his mental faculties are not what they were, he is very much a part of the family.
One day, a strange man comes to their house and demands a mysterious stone he believes her grandfather to have in his possession. Ana has no idea what this stone is or where it might be, but is given a day to turn it over or Felix will be killed. As she desperately tries to retrace her grandfather’s steps, she comes to learn that the stone — a piece of a meteorite uncovered in the Zone of Silence, a sort of Bermuda Triangle site in Mexico — has a strange power that allows a person to reverse time in order to save a loved one from death. Having experienced more than her fair share of loss in her life, Ana is suddenly in possession of a very powerful tool. She must decide how and when to use such a gift.
The film is largely a meditation that asks its audience to reflect on the question of whether or not, given the power, we would alter time to keep a loved one in our lives. And conversely, if we had the opportunity to be saved from death, whether that is something we would really even want.
Villarreal’s story focuses on exploring this premise and uses it as the centerpiece of the film. In some ways, it is effective. The familial relationships at the center of this story are very heartfelt and the characters feel incredibly real. The actors make great work of exploring and defining these relationships and making them feel lived in and connected.
In other ways, however, the thought experiment is a bit too restrictive to allow the story room to breathe. The stone is defined by a very rigid set of rules that almost feel like they are dictating the narrative rather than guiding it. So much of the plot is bound by the framework of this “what if” scenario that, though the story takes some interesting turns, it doesn’t expand to its full potential.
That said, the film does offer some concepts worth pondering. Seeing these characters respond to threats that would see their family shattered delivers some emotional moments, as we watch them fight for the people closest to them in the world. And though the rules governing the mysterious stone can feel cumbersome, the question at the center of its conceit is a fascinating one. What would you do? When should a life be saved? When should another be erased?
Villarreal offers an interesting morality play told through the lens of a sci-fi drama. Though it doesn’t come together on every level, it is an interesting turn on a time travel story and a one that makes good use of its talented cast.