The Silent Storm
Inept and overwrought drama wasting the talent of Damian Lewis and Andrea Riseborough
All this time after it appeared at the 2014 London Film Festival the mystery of why this dour drama, marking Corinna McFarlane’s feature debut, has waited so long for a release is solved. The mystery now becomes why it is being released at all. One’s heart begins to sink swiftly, during an opening scene in which there is no dialogue as Damian Lewis sits feverishly mumbling by firelight to loudly ominous choral music, while an old lady stomps around in the dark and Andrea Riseborough writhes in the agonies of a childbirth clearly going wrong. Anything that starts this melodramatically had better turn out to be The Omen. But no such luck.
Painfully slowly it emerges that Lewis is Balor McNeil, cruel, fanatical minister of a poor Scottish island community relocating en masse to the mainland when the mine closes. Riseborough is his brutalised wife Aislin, a fragile outsider of never-explained origins. Apparently, from a glimpsed car, this is the 1940s or 50s – although the McNeils have no electricity or any other 20th century conveniences in their sprawling farmhouse. Balor refuses to leave his now silent kirk but reluctantly takes in a youth from the mainland, Ross Anderson’s juvenile offender Fionn, who is to be ‘rehabilitated’ by Balor’s regime of croft labour and relentless moralising.
No prizes for guessing where this is going. When Balor embarks on a mad mission from God, Aislin and Fionn picnic on hallucinogenic mushrooms and thrill to their mutual love of poetry, while the camera broods on landscapes (it was shot on Mull) to drag out the inevitable. Since there is no love lost for the maniacally abusive Balor this is not the love triangle billed, more a desperate woman’s attempt at liberation. Whatever, it plays like a protracted parody sketch, since every aspect – from Lewis’s accent to the musical score – is absurdly overblown. Given the proven abilities of the principal participants, it’s all unforgivably inept and a credit some of them might prefer to expunge from their CVs.
Limited release from Fri 20 May.