Review by Sean Boelman
Despite a plot that is enormously convoluted for no good reason, Paula van der Oest’s new thriller The Bay of Silence still manages to feel miraculously stagnant. Completely unmemorable but passable thanks to its talented cast, this film is missing a quality that is fundamental to every good mystery: a sense of intrigue.
The movie follows a man who, after his wife goes missing along with their children, sets out on a search across Europe to look for her, soon discovering that the truth is not something he wanted to find. Based on the book by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, the source material is pretty short to begin with, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that the film still feels incomplete.
The biggest mistake made by writer Caroline Goodall was taking too much time to get to the action. By the time the part of the movie that is actually thrilling starts to kick in, it starts to feel rushed as it scrambles to wrap up the story, albeit with enough loose ends to leave the viewer thinking. Only in this case, those loose ends lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Part of the issue with the film is that the characters aren’t particularly compelling. Even though much of the first thirty minutes are spent establishing their personalities, they ultimately have minimal arcs. Any changes that the characters demonstrate come suddenly and abruptly in the form of a predictable twist.
Like so many moody neo-noirs like this, the movie explores the theme of trust. It’s material that has been done before, and in a much more cinematic way. For the most part, the script is a bunch of ideas floating around that go nowhere or aren’t explored in much depth. Had Goodall focused on a few of these and developed them more, the film easily could have been a solid mystery.
The movie also looks pretty bland and unimpressive. Apart from some nice scenery in the background, van der Oest’s style is too grey and muted to be particularly enjoyable. Granted, it is typical of the genre for the visuals to feel cold, but this takes it to the extreme in a way that is altogether unpleasant.
That said, the actors do their best to bring some element of emotion out of the script, even if they don’t always succeed. Claes Band is an amazing actor, and his performance is one of the few things about the film that is legitimately believable. Olga Kurylenko is solid in her role, but isn’t given a whole lot to do. And the phenomenal Brian Cox is completely underused.
The Bay of Silence isn’t unwatchable, but it is pretty unexceptional. Another crime thriller with photogenic stars and not much else to offer beyond a needlessly complicated plot, this needed to be either more schlocky or far more inspired to be interesting.
The Bay of Silence hits VOD on August 14.