'Silencio': Film Review

Endearingly serious about its goofy premise.
10/26/2018

Lorena Villarreal's supernatural drama watches strangers fight over a hunk of interstellar debris with magic power.

A melancholy supernatural drama about second chances, Lorena Villarreal's Silencio ties family tragedy to a Bermuda Triangle-like desert in Mexico and an elderly scientist's heartache. Deeply felt if not always convincing, the sophomore feature (the director's first, Las Lloronas, was in 2004) has the otherworldly flavor that sometimes accompanies very low-budget productions, and in this case rides that vibe further than its script might deserve. While it may find some support among Spanish-speaking moviegoers, the bilingual import has better prospects on home video platforms than in theaters.

Melina Matthews stars as Ana, a psychiatrist who was raised by her grandfather after the rest of her family was killed by a runaway car. What Ana doesn't know is that grandpa (John Noble's Dr. James White) was an accidental time traveler: He was mourning the entire family's death when he picked up a bit of a meteorite that had been contaminated with radioactivity; that magic rock sent him back in time, where he was able to save one of his granddaughters from her fate.

White kept this bizarre, comic-book-worthy secret to himself, and now seems unable to share it with anyone: His "mind is asleep," and is rendered uncommunicative by dementia; he lives in his handsomely furnished house with Ana and her son Felix. But his old research assistant Peter (Rupert Graves) remembers what that magic rock did, and evidently some others have heard the lore. Strangers come and kidnap Felix, threatening to kill him if Ana isn't able to produce the meteorite that White buried in a secret spot long ago.

Add to this scenario more hoodoo, some of it intriguing — one of Ana's patients, Daniel (Michel Chauvet) claims to be a clairvoyant communicating with her dead sister — and some of it downright silly: The rock, we learn, only turns on its wish-granting capacity once a day, at 3:33 a.m. Suddenly Ana is too busy hunting for buried treasure to ask herself if any of the above makes sense.

The hodgepodge of accents here does nothing to sell us on the film's X Files-ish backstory — Dr. White was sent by the U.S. government to cover up weirdness in Mexico's Zona Del Silencio — and certainly doesn't lend credence to the "inspired by true events" title card preceding this mumbo jumbo. What we do believe is Ana's devotion to her son and grandfather, and the anguish she feels once some of the finer points of the rock's magic powers are explained to her. (The script starts to promise O. Henry-like twists, but doesn't make much of them in the end.) Can it be that Ana's best chance at saving her family is to give her one shot at the wish-granting rock to a stranger?

Production company: Barraca Producciones
Distributor: Tulip Pictures
Cast: John Noble, Rupert Graves, Melina Matthews, Michel Chauvet, Ian Garcia Monterrubio, Hoze Melendez
Director-screenwriter: Lorena Villarreal
Producers: Denisse Chapa, Lorena Villarreal
Director of photography: Mateo Londono
Production designer: Francisco Blanc
Costume designer: Garina Moran
Editors: Glenn Garland, Patrick McMahon
Composer: Leoncio Lara
Casting directors: Carla Hool, Alejandro Reza

In Spanish, English
Rated R, 96 minutes