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The Bay of Silence Film Review: A Thriller With Payoff, But Not Enough Setup

poster of film The Bay of Silence

The Bay of Silence is a competent film with some good ideas, but that gets bogged down with melodrama and odd pacing.

Having children and being married is hard. I mean, I don’t know that from first-hand experience, but that’s what movies have been telling me for my entire life. The Bay of Silence is the most recent film I’ve seen that tackles the trials and tribulations of modern married life through the lens of the thriller genre, as it revolves around a tumultuous dynamic between a husband and wife living an outwardly idyllic life. However, when the wife, Rosiland (Olga Kurylenko), goes missing with their three children, her husband, Will (Claes Bang), tracks her down in Normandy, France, and makes a horrible discovery. He then begins to explore Rosiland’s past, searching for the answers to save his family. 

Prior to watching The Bay of Silence, I had never seen anything that director Paula van der Oest had made. She has been directing for the screen since the late-1980s, so I can only assume that she has had time to polish her style and find her artistic voice as a filmmaker. This experience shows in the quality of the filmmaking itself: the shots are well-composed with a couple striking tableaus, the lighting is effective with a good color palette, the actors all deliver good performances. Everything is in its proper place and completely adequate. I suppose, however, that this is all I can really say about the filmmaking itself: it’s adequate. Nothing made me go “WOW!”, but nothing made me breathe an exasperated sigh and glance at my watch either.

I guess the best way to describe The Bay of Silence would be “melodramatic.” Now, as a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, I do not mean this as an insult at all. It’s just worth pointing out that a lot of plot elements revolve around sensationalized and exaggerated drama. I don’t want to give too many examples out of fear of spoiling anything, but let me offer you a taste of what we’re dealing with here: one character forgets the death of her infant son because she stops taking her medication and relapses into schizophrenia, a condition she developed after she was sexually assaulted at a young age, and is institutionalized. Do you see what I mean? Folks seeking sheik and modern thriller grounded in realism probably won’t enjoy it, but those of you who thrive on melodrama will probably like this aspect of the film. 

Claes Bang and Olga Kurylenko in The Bay of Silence
Claes Bang and Olga Kurylenko in The Bay of Silence (Courtesy of Signature Entertainment)

My largest critique of The Bay of Silence is its pacing; if, in the past, I’ve lowered some films’ scores for being too slow in their plot and taking too much time, here’s an example of a film that I think could have benefitted from slowing down a touch. Its current runtime is an hour and a half, and adding an additional fifteen-to-twenty minutes could have made a world of difference. First, scenes tend to be very short, with some lasting less than a minute. That’s not usually enough time to establish anything, be it an atmosphere or a plot point. Once you’ve finally begun to adjust to the scene shift, you’re suddenly whisked away to a different scene, creating a lot of cognitive whiplash. 

These short scenes and quick pacing lead to certain emotional or character climaxes to feel unearned. The aforementioned character’s schizophrenic breakdown ends up coming out of nowhere. Though it’s revealed that her condition was a long-standing issue that she hid, I still think The Bay of Silence could have built up to that more, or done more to foreshadow it. Instead, it feels like a massive tonal shift and emotional peak, and it arrives well before the halfway mark. I’m on board with the film’s major plot points on paper, but its method of jumping from point-a to point-b is jarring, but not in a good way. 

Whenever I review a film, I always ask myself “who is this for?”. When it comes to The Bay of Silence, I genuinely don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t think thriller fans are going to be blown away by any plot twists or intrigue. I don’t think melodrama fans are going to be swept away in any sensationalized aesthetics. And I haven’t read the book on which this is based, so I have no idea if the book’s fans would get anything out of this movie either. The Bay of Silence didn’t feel like a waste of time, so maybe you’ll get more out of it than I did. But for me, personally, I wasn’t left wanting more.

Signature Entertainment presents The Bay of Silence on DVD & Digital HD on 28th September.

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