Directed by: Stéphanie Joalland
Cast: Dakota Blue Richards, Karl Davies, Jack McMullen
Stéphanie Joalland’s feature length debut, The Quiet Hour isn’t what I’d call a masterpiece, though I’d comfortably label it a very inspired and focused inauguration into a challenging and fiercely competitive professional landscape. The movie making business is no joke, and for Joalland to come up after making some short films and deliver a crisp post-apocalyptic tale is an impressive and respect worthy feat.
So kudos, Stéphanie, you’ve done a pretty good job here.
As for that pretty good job, we can start by talking about the story itself. It’s a straight-forward post-apocalyptic piece about the struggle for hope, the battle to survive savagery and the deep resourcefulness necessary when rapidly adapting to a radically different and potentially permanent shift in lifestyle.
A stranger shows up at the home of young siblings, Sarah and Tom. He’s been shot, and he could use a hand and a bite to eat. But is he friend or foe, and should Sarah be investing her beliefs in this stranger, or the group of aggressive stragglers outside who propose the release of the man in exchange for a peaceful parting of ways? The narrative that follows focuses primarily on those particular points of curiosity in addition to some attentive character examination.
There’s an additional conflict to the story that explains the reasoning behind the earth’s status, and I’m sure you could pick up on that information with a quick google search, but I’m going to leave that untouched. I think it’s a cool idea (that actually shouldn’t be spoiled) that doesn’t quite get enough attention within the plot, though I can also understand the idea of creating an ambiguous threat to parallel the very in-your-face problem that these primary few are forced to deal with.
Questions are deposited in front of the viewer, and gradually answers are revealed. That works, and I think structurally, it’s handled very well. So well in fact that Joalland could be accused of playing it safe. Everything is properly structured by the rule of the book. I think for a “rookie film” that was actually a wise decision. Some bold and unexpected tactics could have paid major dividends, but they could have just as easily sunk the ship.
Joalland took the safest route, and I don’t blame her at all. Let her really get her feet wet with a few more films and then further expand and experiment. Right now, don’t pull the Bambi act, keep your feet firm beneath you; that’s a good idea for a green filmmaker with genuine talent.
The faults of the film, however, in a sense tie into some of the pic’s strengths. The acting is never bad. Not at all. But it is minimalist to a fault. This simply is not the film for minimalist performances. This is a film for big emotion, some rational thoughts and behavior, some irrational thoughts and behavior. This is a film perfect for the unpredictable in performance, and yet, as is the case of the behind the scenes side of things, everything is played safe.
You can’t hit this story out of the park with neutral performances, and outside of a very brief moment or so, these performances are too controlled and neutral to tap into the human emotion too deeply. We just can’t get there because it doesn’t feel as though the characters get there. And, honestly, these are good performers, they’re just holding a little bit too much back, so we can’t cross that emotional threshold that allows us to crumble just a little bit inside.
Ultimately, it’s that particular issue that serves as the picture’s biggest flaw, and the reason The Quiet Hour will be remembered as a good film as opposed to a great film. But who ever said a bad word about a good film?