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Making Noise Quietly

This trilogy of short plays, Making Noise Quietly, would have worked better as a motion picture if it had taken bolder steps to adapt its narrative arcs to the motion picture medium. In each of them, there are conversations that strike up between people who have never met before and end up creating memorable experiences. In the first place, I wondered if it would be better if it were titled Making Noise Very Quietly If At All, given that it is a full two minutes before any significant noise is heard – and even then it is a melancholy tune being played on a piano.

The cinematography is sometimes truly splendid, with panoramic views of sections of the British countryside. Other times, and too often in my view, shots are partially out of focus, as though this were a human equivalent of Animal Farm, where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Perhaps, especially in the first scene, ‘Being Friends’, this is somewhat justified – Eric Faber (Matthew Tennyson) is a gay man in the Second World War (homosexuality was not decriminalised until 1967 in England and Wales), though is happy to confide in all the details with Oliver Bell (Luke Thompson).

But certain people being in focus and certain other people not being in focus carried on, even when in completely different contexts. It sits especially uncomfortably in the final third of the film, also called ‘Making Noise Quietly’, in which Helene Esslin (Deborah Findlay), a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, works so consistently to instil (amongst other things) mutual respect in Sam (Orton O’Brien), a child with selective mutism. The boy’s carer, Alan Tadd (Trystan Gravelle), who adopted him, has issues of his own to deal with, which makes for an intriguing last half hour.

Each scene is set in a different part of the countryside, where the way of life is relatively more sedate than the frenetic pace of living in the city. There are many advantages to this – I wonder if the sort of deep and introspective conversations that take place here would even be possible today, not least because of the seeming ubiquity of social media and instant messaging. But I found the movie was too much of a slow burner for me to properly maintain interest throughout, and I daresay that if I had seen this at the cinema, there’s a chance I may not have stayed awake throughout.

The best one for me is ‘Lost’, in which May Appleton (Barbara Marten) receives the sort of news that Geoffrey Church (Geoffrey Streatfeild) reasonably assumed she would already know: the Falklands War is ongoing, and her son Ian will be coming home in a coffin. There are all sorts of narrative details that arise from this simple meeting. It seems a little contrived, though – would a naval officer (or indeed anyone) really open up so quickly and with so much detail to someone they had met for the first time? Then again, this is precisely the point the film is making: it is possible to be perfectly honest with complete strangers and yet conceal the truth from friends and family.

The main problem for this film seems to be that, for all the scenery, there’s a lot of talking heads going on, and as I started by saying, this still feels like it should be in a playhouse rather than a cinema. The score (Stephen Warbeck) is to be savoured, however, and there’s no faulting the acting from a strong cast. An impactful reminder that the consequences of war and conflict stretches far beyond the immediate battlefield.

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