It’s not a spoiler to say that The Silent Child keeps its most profound message until the end. The story has concluded and, on screen, come the words. If this were a documentary it would tell us how things panned out for the person we just saw walk off. The Silent Child isn’t a documentary but it delivers brutal, unflinching facts. Right now, millions of deaf children who could communicate through signing are growing up unsupported and without the voice the language enables them to have. We should be angry; this has to change.
The Silent Child now comes with some extra baggage as being the Oscar winner for Best Short Film. It’s a straightforward story told simply. That’s not to damn it with any kind of faint praise. It works and it works bloody well. That statue was well deserved.
Rachel Shenton, who wrote the piece, is social worker Joanne who has been brought in by four year old Libby’s family to do something about the child’s moods and make her ready for school. Libby, played beautifully by Maisie Sly, is clever, sharp, witty and caring. But no one knows that because she can’t communicate. The family casually assume she can lip read and have never even bothered to sign.
Not every deaf child will have a house as big as Libby’s or a social worker as dedicated as Joanne but we are left in doubt this is a normal situation. The Silent Child is twenty minutes that will stay with you.