IFC’s The Sound of Silence strands two fantastic actors in a film that’s content with giving them very little to do. Set in picturesque New York City, we follow Peter (Peter Sarsgaard), a ‘house tuner’ who helps people sleep well by isolating noise to figure out what is causing the stressors in their life. Whether it’s a radiator contributing to your anxiety, or a toaster is rattling your brain, Peter has the solution. He’s never met a problem he can’t solve—and then he meets Ellen (Rashida Jones), a worker at a nonprofit for low income families. You’d think the two somehow irrevocably change their lives for the better, and that’s more or less exactly how things play out.
There just weren’t many narrative surprises here, with a completely threadbare storyline. I loved some of the dialogue and interesting observations about sound. “The sound of nostalgia is calm, idyllic, lyrical,” Peter observes at one point. For a movie with sound literally in the title though, I expected more. I sensed a setup for a big mental deterioration. While it skirts this path for Peter, nothing is heightened enough to make you want to care about him. He records conversations, and obsesses over noise (or lack-thereof). He freaks out about his work and techniques being revealed to others, not wanting them to take credit for his discoveries, but Peter as a character has very little definition or reason to exist beyond his profession.
Ellen is significantly more interesting than Peter. Ellen should’ve been fleshed out even further; however, I enjoyed the crumbs that we got. The part where she decides to try acupuncture, and asks how long she’ll need to keep the needles in, was quite funny. “The feeling is deep, but the needles are not,” the instructor answers. It’s a complete non-answer, and acts as a clever, simple comedic aside that was welcome with open arms amongst the nonexistent plot.
I hesitate to use this word, yet I did indeed find The Sound of Silence to be pretentious, with little purpose. Acting performances are good, the concept is promising, and the directing from Michael Tyburski shows style and swims with possibility. Knowing it existed first as a short film makes perfect sense… perhaps it should’ve stayed that way.
The Sound of Silence wants to tune your house when it comes to DVD on May 25th.