Silent Fall (1994)
This psychological mystery is an interesting and suspenseful, but heavily flawed film from director Bruce Beresford. The opening premise, in which a middle-aged married couple is found slaughtered in their bedroom with their 9-year-old non-speaking autistic son as the only witness, is intriguing and gives the film the opportunity to go in an abundance of directions and to explore different kinds of territories. Beresford shows a genuine interest in the phenomenon of autism, but the accuracy and professional depth in the realization of the autistic boy ranges from impressive to painfully negligent and plot-motivated. The latter can to a large degree be attributed to the fact that Silent Fall is under heavy influence from genre thinking; it alternates from serious drama to conventional 1990s thriller in the matter of seconds, and both the characters and the narrative suffers from it.
Beresford's direction is tight, and the film remains quite suspenseful throughout, but it runs astray in a handful of segments. The screenplay comes from the pen of promising screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who subsequently would go on to write both much worse (Batman & Robin) and much better material (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend). His work here contains both clever and effective twists as well as recirculated and completely implausable solutions (e.g. a surprise phone call towards the end). The script of Silent Fall is typical of a young filmmaker who will gain more independence through experience - here he is clearly far too influenced by studio executives who haven't got artistic integrity as their number one focal point. Throughout, it is Richard Dreyfuss who holds it all together with a solid performance, whereas debutant Liv Tyler's performance is both a promise and a warning sign of things to come.