Eight was a bad age for Chloe Grayden, a severe bout of meningitis leaving her in a coma for six months and profoundly deaf when she finally recovered, her mother Emily having vanished without trace in the interim, the police never able to determine if she chose to leave or if she was abducted, hazy but painful memories always close to the surface but brought to the fore as Chloe returns to her childhood home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, to prepare it for sale.
Accustomed to her independence despite her disability and seeing this challenge as no different from any other despite having recently begun an experimental gene therapy intended to stimulate cell growth in her inner ear, instead Chloe’s returning hearing floods her with an overload of information; are the voices she hears in the noise just her brain attempting to comprehend and process the influx or is that her long missing mother attempting to contact her?
Principally acting as a vehicle for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Lachlan Watson who appears in almost every scene as Chloe, wandering the forests around her property, struggling with reconnecting with long-lost childhood friends who never moved away to get on with their lives and obsessing over decayed videotapes of home movies, not to mention “Jan in the Pan” of The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, The Unheard is directed by The Beach House’s Jeffrey A Brown.
The early sections of the film presented in silence without subtitles, an experience of what it is to be deaf in a world of constant noise, Chloe’s near miraculous overnight recovery is the gift of Doctor Sophie Lynch (Shunori Ramanathan), her joy of experiencing sound from the hiss of static to the fizzing of soda somewhat compensating for the awkward doctor/patient relationship between the two which crashes into the inappropriate for no other reason other than to give the film something to do.
Grace fixating on the distorted images and echoes of her past even as she gazes at the plethora of missing persons posters on her sojourns through the neighbourhood, The Unheard proceeds with the pace of a film which presumes the audience has nothing better to do with their time, every scene taking twice as long as needed to establish a simple point and running to over two hours when brevity might have distracted from the shortcomings of Michael and Shawn Rasmussen’s script.
Looking for patterns in static and searching for meaning in silence, with aspects of Skinamarink and Broadcast Signal Intrusion in the endless archive video footage Julia’s Eyes faced sensory loss with more intelligence and sensitivity, The Unheard meandering blindly through dead ends to land badly as the mystery of the missing mother and the other disappearances astonishingly points towards literally the only adult character who isn’t confined to a wheelchair in the entire film.
The Unheard will be available on Shudder from Friday 31st March