Starring: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Hyeon-soo
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Running Time: 125 mins
Silenced is a South Korean film about the true story of a teacher at a school for deaf children who uncovers a wave of abuse and sexual assault by staff at the school dating back years.
A staggering drama based on a devastating true story, Silenced delivers sobering themes and often overwhelming emotional intensity over the course of an enthralling two hours. Bolstered by exceptional performances across the board and directing that hammers home the film’s devastating and deeply passionate main themes, Silenced is a difficult, but undeniably important watch.
Above all, what makes this film so powerful is its often unrelentingly dark portrayal of a horrifying true story. Silenced makes a major point of the fact that the story it tells was real, in recent memory, and is still unresolved, a degree of passion and urgency that brings an extra level of power to the table.
Far more than a simple social issue drama or a courtroom drama, the film features a captivating blend of riveting legal intrigue, a sobering look on institutional corruption, and above all a gut-wrenching portrayal of abuse on a systematic scale.
The film’s first half, in particular, is not for the faint of heart, as it doesn’t hold back from showing the awful nature of the crimes committed, getting under your skin as you witness truly terrible deeds on the part of people who claim to be helping others.
That plays into the way the film transitions towards a full-blown courtroom drama in its latter stages. Complete with the emotional fervour that the story has given you in wanting to see justice done, the court proceedings are another level of fascinating, as the film begins to tap into a deeply distressing portrayal of how corruption and collusion can stomp all over the truth coming out.
The fact that the incident this story recounts happened just 6 years before Silenced was released brings a whole new degree of urgency and passion to the table like few other films, and with a well-crafted screenplay, gripping emotional depth and a range of committed, powerful performances, you won’t be able to take your eyes off this incredibly challenging drama.
The film’s performances are something that mustn’t go unnoticed, as lead actors Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi are filled with raw emotion from start to finish, while young stars Kim Hyeon-soo, Jung In-seo and Baek Seung-hwan are able to really engage with some very difficult and raw themes, delivering some of the best child performances you’ll see on the big screen.
Meanwhile, Jang Gwang, Kim Joo-ryung and Kim Min-sang, who play the film’s principal villains, really get under your skin as criminals should, further heightening the emotional intensity of this film as you begin to see how even perpetrators of the most heinous of crimes can wriggle their way out of accountability.
Director Hwang Dong-hyuk helms the film brilliantly throughout, bringing together a rather large cast effectively and ensuring that the story lends enough emotional attention to each and every personality, all the while deepening the film’s overarching sense of dread through the use of dark cinematography, an intense musical score and pitch-perfect pacing that makes Silenced a mesmerising watch.
Overall, I was stunned by this film. Deeply, deeply distressing to watch at times, the film touches on some devastating themes as it recounts a horrifying true story. However, with fantastic performances, directing and writing, Silenced is an utterly enthralling piece of film, and with such urgent passion behind every moment, it’s fair to say that it’s one of the most important dramas released in recent years. So, that’s why I’m giving it an 8.5.