Winner of the best Live Action Short Film Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, The Silent Child is a heart-rending, urgent and hugely engaging film about the deep-rooted societal ignorance surrounding deafness, and highlights the struggles of a four year old deaf girl (played by deaf actor Maisie Sly), as she learns to communicate using sign language with the help of a new teacher.
Directed by Chris Overton and written by Rachel Shenton, the film won the hearts and minds of academy members earlier this month thanks to its brights and hugely likeable lead, and is set to ignite an important discourse surrounding deafness and the need for a broader understanding of how to educate hearing impaired children, when it airs on the BBC over the Easter Weekend.
As the youngest child of a busy middle class couple, hearing impaired four year old Libby (Maisie Sly) has until now struggled to fit in with her hearing parents and siblings. With a mother (Rachel Fielding) unwilling to learn sign-language in order to communicate with her child, favouring instead the lip-reading method, the child has felt increasingly detached from the family unit, but could the arrival of caring social worker Joanne (Rachel Shenton) finally help Libby come out of her shell, and prepare her for the outside world.
Seven year old year old Maisie Sly, who was five at the time of filming, puts in an awe-inspiring turn as Libby, her ability to convey the child’s inner most angst in absence of verbal communication goes a long way to highlight the talent of this truly impressive young actor. Elsewhere, Rachel Shenton – who also wrote the real life inspired screenplay- gives a career defining performance as Joanne.
The Silent Child not only deals with a subject very seldom approached by mainstream cinema, but it also manages to do so with a huge amount of tenderness towards its subject. Actor turned director Chris Overton does a fantastic in bringing this hugely touching story to life with limited funds and a whole lot of good will. One to savour.
The Silent Child to be screened on BBC1 on Good Friday