Directed by Rolf de Heer. Cast: Chloe Ferguson, Celine O'Leary, Paul Blackwell, Phoebe Ferguson.
1997 - 90 minutes. Rated (for mild profanity). Reviewed December 4, 1998.
"The Quiet Room," is an exceptional, if not perfect, Australian drama that gets farther into the inner workings of a child's mind than any other film I've ever seen. It is an ideal picture for parents (who just might learn something about their children), teenagers (who will nod in recognition at its accuracy), and high school and college classes studying children.
The film is told exclusively, and never sways, from the central character's point-of-view, a seven-year-old girl (Chloe Ferguson) who, by choice, has completely stopped vocally talking with her parents, who are clearly having marital troubles. Since she does not talk, and yet she is the main character, we hear all of her thoughts and feelings at any given time. And, we sense, if her parents understood her a little better, they would realize that she doesn't need to talk to express herself.
"The Quiet Room," with the constant voice-over by the little girl, expressing the thoughts in her mind, are constantly so right-on-target, that director Rolf de Heer should be applauded for the obvious knowledge and maturity that he brings to this emotional story. Admittedly, the narration sometimes overstays its welcome in certain scenes, but when you think about it, this is completely acceptable. All people, not just children, have endless thoughts always floating around in their head, and to stop the little girl from expressing herself would be like telling her she can't use her mind anymore.
Not enough praise could possibly be given to Chloe Ferguson, as the young girl, who, second to three-year-old Victoire Thivisol (1997's, "Ponette"), gives the best motion picture performance I can remember from someone under ten years of age. You can never catch Ferguson acting because she is so very good, and by the film's end, I really was beginning to acknowledge her character as a actual person.
If, "The Quiet Room," ever steps wrong, it is in the conclusion, in which everything is somewhat solved. It is not that it is necessarily a disappointing ending, but I think I probably would have changed the penultimate moments to make them feel as accurate as everything that had come before.
Nonetheless, "The Quiet Room," is, for once, a serious film on the subject of a young child. We do not get many films of this nature, and when we do, they more often than not get many of the little details wrong. The character of the young girl in this film, on the other hand, is so truthful that she really does, in the viewer's mind, at least, become a real human being, as if it was a documentary we were watching. "The Quiet Room," may be a fictional film, but what it says is not "fictional" at all. Children go through the exact same things that this young girl goes through, and the points that this film has to make speaks volumes about them.