Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Silent River

As society becomes increasingly cashless, dead folks no longer have coins to pay the ferryman to the other side. There are several symbolic references to that old myth in this mystical thriller—or is that gold coin more than merely emblematic? Elliot physically happens across it after checking into a strange dessert motel. The woman in the room next door looks a heck of a lot like his wife Julie, but she insists she isn’t. That is the kind of self-consciously Lynchian ride we’re in for during Chris Chan Lee’s Silent River, which releases today on VOD.

Elliot seems to have a lot of blood on him when he checks in. He also has a suit case full of his wife’s clothes. The woman in the connecting room looks a lot like Julie but she says she is Greta. She also claims Patrick is her husband. He is dead, at least for now, but she has his android-automaton ready for some kind of exchange. It is hard to say what is real and what is illusion, not even Elliot’s visions of a Minotaur roaming the halls of the motel.

Silent River is definitely that kind of film. It is always risking to lean so heavily into secret world-beyond-our-own spiritual mumbo jumbo—just look at Adam Sigal’s Chariot or, saints in Heaven protects us, Timothy Woodward Jr.’s Checkmate (but the ultra-micro-budgeted Mystery Spot largely pulled it off). Silent River is a bit more disciplined, but it is also much slower getting started. Viewers basically tour every inch of the motel during the sluggish initial half-hour.

However, West Liang and Amy Tsang are both excellent as Elliot and Greta (as well as Julie in Elliot’s home movies). Their intriguing ships-passing-in-the-night chemistry would probably have been sufficient to carry a more conventional drama. However, every glimpse we get behind the veil gives of the wrong kind of WTF vibes. It is just not the eerie otherworldliness a film like this requires.

It is too bad, because the tacky motel setting is effective. Liang and Tsang also hold up their end. Lee just can’t realize the vision he is trying render. He is more successful in that respect than Sigal, but he is still no David Lynch. Let’s be honest, the minotaur is definitely stretching the mythological symbolism to its breaking point. Not recommended,
Silent River releases today (10/25) on VOD.