"a fine film with fine acting, a fine script and some fine direction"
Many film-makers have attempted to tackle war and the scars it leaves, with too often most falling short of capturing the necessary emotion and delicacy needed for such a difficult subject matter. One such instance Making Noise Quietly, a film that attempts to tell three stories of war and the toll it takes, that sadly, despite its noble intentions and careful execution, is yet another film that falls short.
In Kent in 1944, a conscientious objector finds friendship with a young artist. In Redcar in 1982 during the Falklands War, a woman is informed of the tragic fate of her estranged son. In 1996, a wayward British solider and his stepson befriend a woman they meet in the German Black Forest.
“Just Friends” set during the Second World War is the most narratively interesting of the three segments. Led by a strong performance from Matthew Tennyson as a young charismatic artist, this segment crams in an impressive number of themes and discussions into its short runtime, such as childhood, homosexuality, conscientious objection and death, to name the most prominent. However, the segment is also hindered by its short runtime which doesn’t really give the script (and the actors) time to delve too deep into these themes and it leaves the segment feeling a tad rushed towards the end. However, it is at least visually pleasant, with the sun kissed scenery making for a rather nice backdrop to the conversations had.
“Lost”, set during the Falklands War is perhaps the best of the three segments in terms of construction and execution. Taking place entirely within a living room in Redcar, the segment essentially acts as a long monologue in which a woman attempts to process the news that her son has been killed in action.
The monologue is performed well by Barbara Marten who navigates the careful back and forth between grief, pride and anger at her estranged and now deceased son with grace and subtly. However, much of her success comes at the expense of her co-star Geoffrey Streatfield as a naval officer tasked with delivering the bad news. This is not to criticise Streatfield’s performance, he performs the role with a noble restraint that hints at deeper feelings bubbling under the surface, but the nature of the script means that we really don’t get to see those deeper feelings come to the surface save for a noticeable tightening up when he talks of his presumably demanding Vice-Admiral father.
The third and final segment, which shares the title of the film, takes place in 1996 in the Black Forests of Germany. This segment which takes up almost the last hour of the film is also, in my view, the weakest part of it. Despite possessing numerous elements that could make for an intriguing and engrossing story, this suffers from the opposite problem of the first segment in that it has rather limited story burdened by an excessive runtime that leaves with this segment being a real slog to get through.
The acting however remains excellent, with Deborah Findlay giving possibly the best performance of the film as a Holocaust survivor who finds herself playing host to a new pair of house guests, with great support from Trystan Gravalle as an emotionally exhausted former soldier, with the actor carrying that exhaustion in his tense body language and pained facial expressions.
Being based on a stage play, the segments do have the air of a theatrical production about them, in that they are heavy on dialogue and character and relatively light on visual flourishes, with scenes being shot in a rather staid and restrained fashion. This style works well for the film’s dialogue-heavy script, but it can also leave one with the feeling that perhaps the film-makers could have easily filmed a live performance of the play and it would have had the same impact.
Obviously made with the best of intentions, Making Noise Quietly is a fine film with fine acting, a fine script and some fine direction. Although that really is the best way to describe the film as a whole; just fine, but it’s also not a film that is likely to linger long in the memory.