May 25, 2024

SOFT & QUIET (2023) – A difficult but necessary movie to watch in these troubled times

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

This little-known independent and micro budget movie is one of the most powerful movies I have seen in recent years. It is simple and yet so powerful in the message it conveys. It is told in real time and seemingly over one long continuous take. The last time this technique was used for an entire movie was in the brilliant war movie 1917 by Sam Mendes. This is in a much smaller scale but no less impactful. We are introduced to Emily, a kindergarten teacher in the first frame and follows her movement for the next one and a half hours. We find out that she has organised a meeting with a bunch of ladies who all have one thing in common. They are all white women who hold a grudge in the current social environment where white supremacy and white privileges are often cited in name of racial biasness and discrimination. The meeting had to be abrupted ended and the turn of events that follow a section of the group as they head out to buy some snacks from a grocery store inadvertently offered an opportunity for them to vent their frustrations on a pair of foreigners at the store. Things of course spiral from casual bullying to something far more serious as the movie progresses.

Writer director Beth de Araujo has a keen and acute sense of the delicate subject matter of racial discrimination and her script has a no holds barred attitude. Her personal background of having a Chinese-American mother and a Brazilian father probably helped her appreciate the subject matter at a first-hand level. She also manages to draw very convincing and impactful performances from her cast of unfamiliar faces with Stefanie Estes taking on the lead role with conviction. The characters come across as being quite human in that they all exhibit signs of normal everyday behaviour with common aspirations that we can all identify with. However, this soon becomes less obvious as their true nature begins to be revealed. Filming the story in realtime and in one take is never an easy task but this technique often comes across as a very powerful and involving form of storytelling when done right. Beth pass in flying colours here.

Be forewarned however that this movie is not easy to watch and you will likely feel very uncomfortable while at the same time, be on the edge of your seat as the story unfolds. It is the sort of movie that will stick to your mind long after the credit ends simply because it is so impactful. I think that is a very respectable achievement for a film maker and this is especially remarkable coming from someone who is not a frontline player in the industry. It is a tough act to follow but I am looking forward to more from Beth in the future.

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