The usually reliable actor Richard Dreyfuss stars in Bruce
Beresford's 1994 movie SILENT FALL. Beresford has made some wonderful
films. I have never seen one of his pictures that I would not
recommend and most are highly memorable. I will never forget his
DRIVING MISS DAISY, CRIMES OF THE HEART, TENDER MERCIES, or one of my
personal favorites of his, BLACK ROBE.
Dreyfuss is good in SILENT FALL and except for LET IT RIDE and
ALWAYS, I have found his work superb. I thought he was unconvincing in
ALWAYS and everyone was awful in LET IT RIDE.
In SILENT FALL, rich parents are killed in their bedroom. Some
mysterious stranger hacked them both to death with a knife. Sheriff
Mitch Rivers (J. T. Walsh) discovers their bloody bodies and finds
their young autistic son Tim Warden (Ben Faulkner) in their bedroom
holding the knife and with blood all over him. They find his teenage
sister Sylvie (Liv Tyler - star of STEALING BEAUTY) in the closet,
knocked out and bloody. The boy is out of control so they call in
child therapist Jake Rainer (Richard Dreyfuss) to get the knife from
Right away there are many mysteries. Since the stab wounds are
done with much force, the boy is ruled out as the killer as is the girl
since she was unconscious. So who is the mysterious stranger, and why
didn't he kill the boy and the girl?
Since only the boy saw the killer and since he doesn't talk, Jack
is asked to work with him in an attempt to ascertain the truth.
Thinking Jack is not moving fast enough, the sheriff turns to Dr.
Harlinger (John Lithgow) who uses drugs to induce memory recollection.
Jack and the doctor do not trust each other. Moreover, there is
something hidden in Jack's past, and the doctor seems to be hiding
something himself as does the sheriff. Rapidly the audience becomes
convinced that no one may be exactly whom they claim to be. Ambiguity
The movie is about the quest for the facts behind the murders.
The script by Akiva Goldsman is intelligent and unpredictable. The
performance by Dreyfuss and Faulkner are marvelous. Dreyfuss crafts a
character with whom it is easy to empathize. He tries so hard to break
the boy's shell, and yet he loves him at the same time. Faulkner is
equally great as a walking enigma.
Liv Tyler gives a pedestrian performance, but at least better than
her vacuous one in STEALING BEAUTY. One wonders if she has any acting
talent at all. Lithgow overacts as is his propensity unless carefully
directed. Walsh plays the same character he has played many times
before and does not change it.
The mystery keeps the viewer riveted to the screen. Small details
like the background noise moving from silence to nature sounds to
storms enhance the thriller aspect. I am sad to report that the end
turns into a low grade horror film and almost sinks the entire picture.
Why they did this is beyond me. It is not necessary. At any rate the
rest of the show is captivating.
SILENT FALL runs 1:46. It is rated R. There are gory images,
violence, some bad language, sexual situations, but no sex or nudity.
The show would be fine for any teenager, but not for anyone younger. I
recommend the show even with its schlock ending and give it ** 1/2.
With a better quality ending, I would have rated it higher.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes