Written and Directed by Corinna McFarlane
Starring Damian Lewis, Andrea Riseborough, Ross Anderson
Film review by Hannah Sayer
Set on a remote Scottish island just after the Second World War, Corinna McFarlane’s directorial debut boasts an exciting cast and a rare executive producing credit for a non James Bond project from Barbara Broccoli. On paper, The Silent Storm looks like an extremely promising first feature. The final product is ultimately predictable, yet still endearing.
The Silent Storm follows the story of minister Balor, played by Damian Lewis, and his mysterious wife Aislin, played by Andrea Riseborough, whose turbulent and disruptive marriage verges on the edge of gothic melodrama. Balor is extremely religious and God-fearing and his wife is the complete opposite, much to his discomfort, as she chooses to practice Pagan rituals over believing in her husband’s faith. Aislin is enigmatic and mysterious; her life before her marriage is unknown and Riseborough reinforces the unknown quality of her character by choosing to play her as conflicted and distant. They are far from happy and Balor’s quick temper and religious steadfastness causes him to be violent and abusive towards his wife. She is trapped in a marriage where she fears the aggressive force of her husband. It is with the introduction of a young delinquent Fionn, played by Ross Anderson, who moves in to live with the couple to rehabilitate when the character dynamic is changed and tested. There is a glimmer of hope and promise with the arrival of Fionn who instantly forms a connection with Aislin. They are both subject to Balor’s harsh words and actions and can relate to each other as outsiders.
(Lewis' friendless Tug-o-War Tournament was a resounding failure)
Ed Rutherford’s cinematography successfully captures the spectacular scenery of the surrounding, isolated expanse but long, lingering shots of the mystifying Scottish landscape lose their appeal due to being used too frequently and they do little to distract from the predictability of the narrative. McFarlane succeeds in depicting a past age and she gets the most out of her actors, even if Damian Lewis’ intense Scottish accent can at times seem overly theatrical and laboured. It is a shame that the Scottish members of the cast, Kate Dickie and John Sessions, only have small supporting roles. However, this lack of regular intrusion from characters outside of this troubling love triangle reinforces their isolation and McFarlane creates a space in which order quickly becomes chaotic and the tension reaches boiling point.
Although The Silent Storm can be accused of being nothing more than predictable, it still offers some surprising twists and great performances along the way which makes this Scottish set character study worthy of attention.
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