The Silent Child - Short Film Analysis

Updated on February 8, 2019
Katie Newbery profile image

I have always had a passion for movies as I spend most of my days watching them and ranting about them, so why not share my opinions online?

The Silent Child

The Silent Child is a one-off short film that was released in 2017 and has a duration of 20 minutes. The Silent Child is considered to fit into the drama genre, so it is pure. There is no mystery or element of surprise in this film, so you are able to concentrate on the importance of the awareness being raised in this film, rather than guessing a plot twist the entire time.

This film won the award in the Live Action Short Film category at the 90thAcademy Awards, which is one of the highest honours in the film industry, so it clearly had an effective impact on lots of people. This means many people watched it and were moved by it in a way that triggered the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to notice it. I was able to watch this film on YouTube, so it is available online, but it was originally shown at film festivals, including the Rhode Island International Film Festival, which was how it was entered into the Oscars. This shows how important platforms are for the distribution of films.


As you can see from this opening tracking shot, we are immediately thrown into an exterior shot of the countryside, which implies that this story will take us to an isolated location, which it turns out fits in well with the characters who live in that location as they are all isolated from society and their knowledge of deaf people and the impact their ignorance is having on their deaf child. That is until the character of Joanne shows up, which is who we are following here. This shot is taken from a bird’s eye view, which allows us to see the setting of this film and we are able to follow Joanne on her bike as she begins her new journey. The colouring is quite grey and dull, which could imply sadness and a dreariness that is present in the lives of the characters we are about to meet. The colour that stands out in this shot is Joanne’s red coat, which shows that she will play an important part and will stand out from everyone else in the film.


Another shot type commonly used throughout the film is a low-angle and a high-angle to show that the family all look down on Joanne from the moment they meet her. They all believe they are more important and have other things to worry about other than their child who Joanne is there to help, so the unspoken hierarchy is portrayed from the start.

As you can see from this shot below, focus pulling is also a popular camera movement used throughout the film to focus the attention on the character of Libby and how she is feeling and also how she experiences the world from her point of view. This is because, until Joanne arrived, no one has attempted to help Libby to communicate affectively to those around her, so her happiness has never been seen as important until this moment.

Shot Framing:

The Silent Child uses lots of vibrant colours for the clothing of Joanne and Libby as they are the positive people in this story who are trying to make a difference to this dull world that Libby and her family are living in. All of the other characters constantly wear white, grey and black clothes, which are colours that do not stand out, which coincides with their attitudes towards sign language. This film also uses multiple locations like the family home, the woods, the swimming pool and the school throughout the film, which makes it more pleasing to the eye as you do not become uninterested in the plot. This is a long-shot to show the broad range of activities Libby can partake in now that she can effectively communicate with someone and is able to have fun with someone for once. At the end of the film when Libby is shown at school and Joanne visits her at the gate after she is fired, everything goes back to the way it was at the beginning; Joanne is wearing the same coat as she was at the start and Libby is wearing dull colours, which shows her unhappiness and how nothing has changed due to her parents’ ignorance of her needs. This means that colour and costumes are important to tell the story and to raise awareness of the effects of sign language and lack of it.


The Silent Child is a linear story where we are thrown into the lives of a family with a young deaf child and how her life is changed once the character of Joanne comes into her world and it also shows the effects of being optimistic and being oblivious when it comes to considering what is best for a deaf child. The film follows this storyline well and sticks to it throughout, without steering away from the importance of the overall message. The ending of the film is left open because we do not know what happens to the characters after the final scene, but we can guess that Libby would not get the help she needs due to the majority of people around her not understanding her. Due to the statistics and information at the end of the film, we are left feeling sad and deflated after seeing something great building up and then being shut down completely for no real reason whatsoever. It is disheartening and upsetting, but it gets the message across very well, so the narrative is easy to follow and has a large impact on the audience in the end.

There is one scene in particular that had the biggest impact on me and that was the scene where we hear what Libby can hear and we see her world from her point of view, which makes it an interactive scene where the audience can get a better understanding for what it is like to be in that position. By doing this, we feel more attached to Libby and we want her to get the help and support she needs, so we immediately become more involved in the storyline.

Sound is extremely important for this film, especially in the scene below because we hear the constant silence that Libby has to endure and the difficulties she faces every day. This film aims to raise awareness for the need of British Sign Language in schools across the UK and of course elsewhere in the world. Therefore, the film tends to be quiet when Libby and Joanne are communicating because they are using sign language with slight lip reading. This is to show the impact it has and how well it works for a deaf person. There is also a piece of music that plays throughout the film, which is sad and emotional rather than intense and dramatic. This is because The Silent Child wants to provoke emotion within the audience and make people realise that this is a sad situation and has to be addressed more often, so the sound is effective in doing this.


Overall, The Silent Child is an incredible film because it has made awareness of the effects of sign language in schools and the impact of not having it in place, so it has gotten a strong message across to millions of people. It is a very important film in today’s society, which is something I like to see. However, they did use lots of complicated shots, editing techniques and sound effects that would be difficult to create on a low budget, but they worked well in this film, so it is definitely a positive aspect of the film. The only weakness in this film, in my opinion, is the lack of resolution at the end of the film. I understand the impact this has on the audience as it is an honest revelation that not many people would know about, so it hits you hard. However, you feel sad by the end of it as it does not end on a positive note whatsoever, so it would be hard to watch again due to this factor. But other than that, I loved it and can understand why it won an Academy Award due to the awareness it has raised amongst viewers.

5 stars for The Silent Child

© 2018 Katie Newbery


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