LUMI Reviews: BFF Silent Roar

22 November 2023

Conor McCusker reviews Silent Roar, which screened as part of the Belfast Film Festival at QFT.

LUMI Reviews BFF Silent Roar

Shot in beautifully rugged 16mm, writer/director Johnny Barrington illuminates the microcosm of the Hebrides as a centre point of all things weird and wonderful when it comes to life. “It’s cosmic alignment!” exclaims Dondo (Louis McCartney) to Sas (Ella Lily Hyland) as he endeavours to explain his new group of silhouetted surfer friends (who may or may not be real). ‘Cosmic Alignment’ is a great turn of phrase to use in relation to this story. The film highlights all the great uncertainties of life, but emphasises that of all that is known and unknown in this world, in some miraculous way it all (cosmically) aligns together.

Silent Roar graciously deals with aspects of grief, religion and adolescence throughout its short 90-minute runtime, and is packed full of ultra surreal imagery, symbolism and dissenting takes on organised religion. This is a beautifully cathartic film that shows Dondo’s internal battles with the loss of his father to the sea, his much-loved sea. Searching for answers he tries to turn to organised religion, something that his family isn’t party to.

Paddy (Mark Lockyer) is the new priest at the local dilapidated church, who provides a Craggy Island-like performance (non-derogatory by the way) and has a soft spot for Dondo. Paddy welcomes him into the church and enables Dondo to vocalise his search for his father in a spiritual and even physical way, only exacerbating the denial that he faces on his spiritual journey. Louis McCartney’s Dondo is full of wonder, fear and boyish innocence. It is this innocence that allows him to view his Christian surroundings with an outside scepticism. Dondo begins to understand that religion for him is an idea that carries more of a personal and powerful message than an organised agreement of what God is.

Sas is the opposite of Dondo; a religiously oppressive homelife, popular and academically gifted, but ultimately lost and stifled by the parental control of her future. The pair make for an interesting duo and challenge each other on many aspects of spirituality and how to deal with their lots in life. They are at times indifferent to one another as they both represent something that the other does not want in life, i.e., change and stagnation. Staged as a coming-of-age story, the film uniquely highlights the emotional aspects of growing up as a person who has been broken by the intensity of life even before reaching adulthood.

The serious aspects at this film’s core are undercut by the well- timed, wry humour used throughout. The recurrent image of Dondo’s own personal Jesus (Chinenye Ezeudu), a black, Swiss female with an American accent and a fluffy black rabbit, never failed to amuse me with its defiance. This adds further fuel to the fire of the recurring question between Sas and Dondo, of what genitalia God has, if any. Silent Roar will leave you with a sense of hope, even if there is no reason to feel it. A highly moving debut from Barrington.