THE SILENT CHILD centers around a profoundly deaf four year old girl named Libby (Maisie Sly) – who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence – until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.
Directed by Chris Overton and Written by Rachel Shenton (Joanne), this poignant story won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Beautiful cinematogrophy (Ali Farahani) and score (Amir Konjani).
The film’s visually stunning opening of our introduction to Joanne, riding her bike, captivates you.
Maisie Sly (a deaf actress) portrays Libby with such depth, it’s hard to believe she is only a young child. Rachel Shenton’s performance as Joanne, embraces the love she has for this child, and her dream for her to be able to communicate with the world.
Rachel Fielding, as Libby’s mom, is wonderful. She is hung up on the rest of her overachieving children and reveals a complete disconnect from Libby. She, like the rest of the family, treat Libby as if she’s invisible.
Joanne joins the family to help Libby with lip reading – but she embarks on teaching Libby sign language. When Joanne suggests the family learn sign language, we see that the mother doesn’t want her current world disrupted – by entering her daughter’s world of silence. A poignant scene, from Libby’s perspective, of the family at the dinner table – brings you into her world.
Exchanges between Joanne and Libby are heartfelt. The scene where Libby first asks for orange juice – makes you want to cheer – and the ending at the school yard – makes you wish there was more to the film.
This filmmaker’s powerful message is that no child or person is incapable of living a full life – because of their deafness. The message that EVERY school and family should embrace a deaf child with BOTH sign language and lip reading – is a message we ALL must support.
Libby’s life and heart opened wide when given the opportunity for someone to believe in her – and to love her – as she is.