The Bay of Silence, 2020.
Directed by Paula van der Oest.
Starring Claes Bang, Olga Kurylenko, Brian Cox, Alice Krige, Caroline Goodall, Shalisha James-Davis, Assaad Bouab, Hannah van der Westhuysen, Maroussia Frank, Lilibet Biutanaseva and Litiana Biutanaseva.
Will believes his wife Rosalind is innocent of their son’s suspected murder, only to discover the devastating truth behind her past links her to another unsolved crime.
Based on the novel by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, The Bay of Silence is a starry-cast thriller, with an Oscar-nominated director in Paula van der Oest (Zus & Zo). With a debut screenplay courtesy of actress Caroline Goodall (Hook, Schindler’s List), who also takes on producing duties, it’s clear the film is a sort of passion project. But despite its suggested pedigree, and the involvement of Claes Bang (Dracula), Brian Cox (Succession, Red) and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), it fails to truly live up to the expectations of suspense, quality and a satisfying storyline.
The Bay of Silence suffers from a choppy, disjointed narrative that skips over things it could spend more time fully establishing. From the outset, we’re presented with a recurring black and white scene of a terrified young girl, which is to be pieced into the wider story of Will and Rosalind, a successful couple who holiday in Italy (frolicking in the titular Bay of Silence) before marrying, moving in together with her daughters, and falling pregnant. The stilted nature of the film is clearest in how their relationship is hurried over to get to the meat of this thriller, but there’s still time set aside for ponderous scenes in the darkroom that attempt – but fail – to properly deliver any intrigue.
The plot revolves around Rosalind’s reaction to giving birth to her son, as well as the baby’s subsequent death, but it’s not particularly well managed or realistic. Kurylenko does her best, committing to the role and its challenging highs and lows, but her character’s condition is never thoroughly explored. The Bay of Silence ends up resting on the basic horror trope of using mental health as a plot device – but it should do more.
Rosalind and Will’s relationship also just doesn’t seem to ring true, with hardly any attention paid to the likely unravelling of it in the aftermath of such trauma. The emphasis is put more on Will attempt to uncover the truth, which keeps the plot trundling on – but with less care for its more fragile characters, it’s difficult to fully invest.
The undoubted selling point of The Bay of Silence is its impressive cast, with Claes Bang in particular carrying a lot of the weight on his shoulders as he nails the ‘everyman’ role. His inclination towards being enigmatic also helps keep some of the film’s suspense from lagging. Brian Cox can also be relied upon to showcase his own proclivity towards a jocular but shady character of dubious motives. Olga Kurylenko tries her best with a lightly-sketched part – but she deserves more. The cast also includes turns from Alice Krige (Carnival Row), Shalisha James-Davis (I May Destroy You), Assaad Bouab (Homeland, Call My Agent), Hannah van der Westhuysen (Granchester) and Goodall herself.
The Bay of Silence strives to be an exciting film-noir-come-psycho-melodrama, but it just lacks the subtlety and refinement. Although it does manage tension in moments (certainly when Will approaches the pram), it’s not something that’s sustained throughout. A half-soaked ending, which leaves undercurrents unexplored, seals the film’s fate as a bland thriller that’s likely only of interest to fans of the novel, Bang or Kurylenko.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★