wed 22/10/2014

The Silence, BBC One | TV reviews, news & interviews

The Silence, BBC One

Detectives-and-deafness drama defies critics and builds up impressive head of steam

Amelia (Genevieve Barr) and DCI Jim Edwards (Douglas Henshall) hear the sound of 'The Silence'

There was a gnawing suspicion that The Silence wouldn’t amount to much, since it was dumped in a four-night splurge in the middle of the mid-summer doldrums, and even the normally docile Radio Times had decided to stamp its foot and pick holes in it. One’s apprehension proved ill-founded, however. It turned out to be taut, tense, well acted and smartly written, and carried enough pace to lift it over the more credulity-stretching passages.

 
Australian screenwriter Fiona Seres had set the bar pretty high for herself. On the one hand, The Silence was a drama about an extended family, with the theme of wife Anne (Gina McKee), husband Chris (Hugh Bonneville) and their deaf daughter Amelia (Genevieve Barr) pushed front and centre. On the other, it tracked the course of a double murder investigation headed by DCI Jim Edwards (played with sustained intensity by Douglas Henshall).
 
These twin hemispheres were umbilically connected by the fact that DCI Edwards was also Amelia’s uncle, and it was Amelia who chanced to be the sole witness to the killing of a female police officer. Amazing coincidence of course, but that never stopped Agatha Christie. Amelia was staying with uncle Jim and his family at the time, impaling him on a painful dilemma about whether he should treat her protectively as his niece, or exploit her as a crucial witness in an increasingly murky homicide investigation.
 
His decision was made trickier still by the third dimension of the drama, and the one referred to in the title, which was the story of Amelia’s struggle to cope with her new cochlear implant. This technical innovation meant that she was able to hear for the first time, but was feeling disturbed and disorientated because she hadn’t learned how to interpret the sounds flooding in from a previously hidden world. This element was skilfully knitted into the piece by switching the narrative focus on and off Amelia, cutting at intervals from her aurally faulty perspective to the full-on sonic overload that everybody else regarded as perfectly normal.
 
Scenes inside bars and nightclubs throbbing with a barrage of music, shouted conversations, crashing glasses and screeching slot machines made you begin to appreciate Amelia’s yearning for a return to a bit of merciful silence. The scene of her dancing in a club to a rock band (Kasabian, if you must know) which everybody else could hear but she could only feel as a series of vibrations was especially penetrating (Hugh Bonneville and Gina McKee as Amelia's worried parents, pictured below).

mckee_small
This was something of a tour de force for deaf actress Genevieve Barr, who exploited every inch of the role’s potential to depict Amelia as confused and uncertain, but also as brave, smart and resourceful. She was even able to suggest that deafness can be managed, and may have some compensations that hearing people don’t appreciate. As an another deaf character chided her, “Why can’t you just accept who you are?” If this makes it sound like a feelgood commercial for the aurally impaired, it never felt as schematic or prescriptive as that, thanks to the skill with which Seres had woven her fictional strands together.

Watch on

Explore topics

Share this article

Comments

another clanger dropped by the BBC. The Silence fantasic television in a period were we are struggling for decent entertainment. But the fact it was not hyped up before and the fact the BBC have nothing prepared to answer us all on if or when there will be a second series just shows they thought they were fobbing us of with more mindless dribble. Please BBC sort yourselves out
I agree with the majority above, what a let down the ending was!! You have a lot to answer for with an ending like that. The acting was IMHO superb throughout the series.
What a disappointment in the ending!! It is always so frustrating to watch a mini series with the all the tension building up to the final episode and............nothing. I too thought there must be a fifth. Rubbish.
Brilliant Crime Drama, can't decide about the ending. Half of me hated it because my natural curiosity was - and still is - just burning to find out what happened and if there was more to it then met the eye (or ear). For instance, as soon as Lee and Mac found out Amelia was the witness I was sure it was Terry who'd told them, as he'd just found out as well. Other viewers I spoke to also thought this, but it was never confirmed, denied or even touched on. On the other hand, I agree with @Adam Sweeting@ that it was trying to show that the good guys don't always win and things don't always work like in CSI or Agatha Christie. (Totally agree with @Elinor@ about the lip reading while someone's back is turned thing. That kind of mistake bugs me SO bad!) I wish we'd seen things a little from the "bad" guys' point of view as well; they had to kill Jane Shilliday because ...etc and they had to try and kill Jim because ...etc and that way we would have got some insight into their justification of the murders. (I don't believe that there are 'good' and 'bad', everyone does things for a reason.) Also, I agree with @Frank Wilde@ about Lee and Mac not slitting Jim's wrists properly. They managed the other murdere, and surely this one was the most crucial (in their eyes - Jim knew everything) so they would do it right. Perhaps it would've been good to see that they were interrupted and didn't have time or some other reason. Then again, perhaps the ending was left the way it was to suggest that they weren't the ones to go for Jim. The whole ambience of the show (which was, I think, amazingly awesomely incredible in every single way!!!!!) builds up this feeling of not-quite-knowing and being slightly unsure about everything. It could've been left how it was to give the viewer the suggestion that maybe Jim really was a bit not-right-in-the-head and he did it to himself (suicide) and/or the drugs in his drawer really were his. It could all've been some massive plot...? Just a suggestion, and I'm not even sure if I like it, but whatever. Saying all of this, It was still the best thing I've seen in ages. I loved it. I hope it is available on DVD some time (I'm downloading it to Iplayer Desktop as I type!).
Really enjoyed the four episodes of The Silence, just can't believe the way it ended. Have been trying to find out if there is a second series planned. There has to be!
I watched the 1st episode and thought it was good with regards to the cutting and ambience.In fact I will say that it was very good. So good that it made up for the ridiculous story and superficiality of the situation. The acting went half way to contributing to being able to keep watching. But it was 2/3 for the first part and that deficit seems to keep growing as the series progresses. It encroaches into the good areas and just makes it so stupid. We used to make good t.v. Why does there have to be such middle class bawbaggery on bbc. There are such amazing talents out there in our country able to write about believable situations in an engaging manner. I mean come on Agatha Christe jeeeeeeeeeeeezus save this stuff for bbc7 and give us something real. Or if at least make it good sc-fi.
How disapointing! After watching parts 1-4 on iPlayer, I spent the whole of Friday looking forward to the fifth episode... seriously! Later on I even spent a couple of hours trying to work out why the finale had not been posted yet. iPlayer really should indicate the total number of parts somewhere other than in the detailed (spoiler) programme notes.
Only the BBC could make a brilliant drama and then make the whole thing pointless by having the worst ending possible. I feel like I have completely wated my time watching the first 3 episodes now. I won't be watching any BBC multi part dramas again. Awful. If only ITV had made it at least they know how to end dramas.
I was so looking forward to the last episode, so watched it with great enthusiasm tonight, and I'm left hanging. Where's the ending?? I also found it a bit frustrating that Amelia somehow managed to lip read when people had their backs to her. The police officer circling around her in the interview room, and Jim when he was looking out of the hotel room were just two examples. BBC, please give us another episode.
Really enjoyed "The Silence", but what a dissapointing ending. Massive let down. I can only agree with 'Arthur' that it was possibly left like that leaving it open for a follow up.
The Kasabian song was "Fire". Obviously some debate about the ending. Personally, though I'd have loved to see the villains blown away in a Magnum Force apocalypse, I thought it conveyed the idea that justice doesn't always triumph, police corruption is an unavoidable fact, and the good guys often lose. Also I think the idea was that you focused on Amelia' s personal journey and her developing relationships with Doug Henshall et al as much as the crime saga.
Brilliant Drama. Poor ending. For it to expect the viewer to interpret so much of the ending on one hand, and then on the other ask us to gloss over the unproffesional approach the drug squad took in staging Jims suicide (leaving him with his phone and not slitting his wrists properly) just rankles me. At least develop the Beardy guys so you could believe they were close to cracking up and you could get away with it. But what really spoiled the end for me was the slap in the face to say "you've just wasted 3hours and 55 minutes watching this plot development when you could've gotten it over in 5." Just let Amelia talk to Rocky straight away and all will be well. A gripping 3:55 but it's not Cormac McCarthy I want from a four hour tv drama. In that length of time I want the plot concluded more decisively, Sugar. I know it's Chigurh.
Has it not occured to anybody that the way the ending was left open makes it possible for the storyline to continue ?
I enjoyed it until it ended, was really dissapointed with the ending. what was the Kasabian song called?
A gripping drama, except someone forgot to write an ending. A massively disappointing non-ending.
What utter drivel. I can't believe I watched it until the end as after the first episode I couldn't believe that it could get any worse but there I was another 3 hours later thinking there is 4 hours I will never back again. The actions and over-reactions of some of the characters was so incomprehensible that my wife and I just stared at each other in disbelief. For drama to be watchable it has to be believable and the charaters have to behave like real people. In the end I was half wishing that al the main characters would come a croper, but no such luck. I found myself thinking 'I bet this is written by a woman'. Next time I will stick to my instincts and give it a miss or at least sky+ it and watch it in fast forward mode which would at least have spared me the melodramatic 'silent' pauses.
I thought the ending ruined the whole show, you watch four good episodes and then there is no real end. While there may be some point trying to be made there I do think viewers prefer an end. While the acting of Amelia was good and showed advantages to deafness I did find the character annoying too - maybe that is the point that teenagers can be annoying. Maybe if they had not made her dress so unflattering and her expression so dour all the time it may have helped but the portrayal led me to feel that her cousins would have found her rather irritating rather than loveable and it made their concern for her not feel that believable. Anyway an ending would be good!
The final episode was a bit inconclusive. I was expecting a bit more of a closure to the case... it feels that there is a 5th episode missing...
I watched the first episode of ' The Silence ' on iPlayer , I just chanced across it and watched on Tuesday morning with I must admit , a touch of skepticism , ..How wrong could I be ! a magnificent series of programmes , The story was great , the tension was riveting and the acting was superb .. by every character , faultless and believable . A special mention of course has to go to Genevieve Barr who played the part of Amelia so well that she brought a subject that very few understand into our lives and to a new level of comprehension and dare I say empathy ? I dont know if " Amelia " and extended family could be revisited again extending the story and lives of them all but I for one would welcome it .

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Use to create page breaks.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters