War is a subject that is so often dealt with on the big screen. Be it World War One, World War Two, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan it makes for high drama as lives are so often at stake. What you see less often is the impact of war on real people and real lives away from the military and the say-to-day elements of conflict. The people at home or the people caught in the middle. That is exactly what Making Noise Quietly tackles, and it does so in affecting and unorthodox fashion.
Based on the successful play of the same name, Making Noise Quietly is essentially broken in three separate shorter stories, each focusing on a different perspective on the true impact of war. The first of the three stories, Being Friends, takes place in 1944 in the South East of England as writer and artist Eric who meets Oliver, a conscientious objector and they become friends with Eric opening up about his homosexuality and Oliver about his reasoning for not wanting to go to war and his experiences on the home front. This open conversation is surprisingly engrossing and there is excellent chemistry between the two as they get to know each other against the backdrop of German bombers attacking the town as a reminder that while life goes on during the war, so does war interrupt life.
The second of the two stories focuses on a Naval officer who has to visit a mother and tell her that her son was killed in combat during the Falkland’s War, although they end up talking more and more about her relationship with her son, and her husband as well as the Naval officer’s experiences with her son. This section is the definition of “slow burn” as it takes an excruciating, but totally necessary amount of time to get the true meat of the situation.
The third and final story gives the film its title, and focuses on a Holocaust survivor, Helene, who is visited by two strangers; a man and his autistic step-son who is non-verbal (Alan and Sam, respectively). This story is given the most amount of time, and in many ways suffers for that. While it unfolds over the course of the final act of Making Noise Quietly, this story feels like the least grounded and least believable. Although we do dive deep into Helene’s experiences in wartime as well as well as Sam’s condition, the payoff feels unrealistic and I’m not sure it was particularly effective given the time it was given.
The fact that Making Noise Quietly was previously a stage play is very telling. The minimalist locations and tiny cast suggest a personal approach, and in some ways I’m not sure that fully translates to the screen from the stage. The acting performances across the board are excellent, and they imagery and locations are perfect. However, as a film it feels a tiny bit disjointed and maybe a bit lopsided, which is a shame because as individual parts there is some great work on show here.