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The Whisper of Silence (15) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Alfonso Quijada, El Salvador, 2020, 93 mins, subtitles

Cast: Laura Osma, Alfredo Moreno, Emy Mena, Mercy Flores, Boris Barraza

Review by Colin Dibben

Wide-framed, boldly coloured and definitely beautiful to watch, The Whisper of Silence quietly sucker punches the viewer at the end, to devastating effect.

Josefina (Osma) and her younger brother Alfredo (Moreno) live with her godmother (Flores) on a coffee plantation in El Salvador. Josefina is taking stock of her life after a sexual assault and the death of her mother.

She is intrigued when she sees coffee tasters doing their thing on the veranda of the plantation’s villa. Sneaking in when they leave, Josefina soon finds out that she has an exceptional talent for identifying, differentiating and describing the signature elements of a coffee.

When a foreman brings her talent to the notice of the boss, a new life beckons for Josefina. But a cycle of male revenge and violence threatens her new start.

Director, writer and producer Quijada has created something pretty canny here. On the one hand, it is an almost wilfully tourist friendly, idyllic vision of life on a Central American coffee finca, peopled by strikingly good looking workers, especially Josefina herself, who seems to be wearing a very suitable lipstick.

Colombian actor Laura Osma’s radiant beauty and quiet confidence aren’t quite credible for Josefina. But maybe that’s the point: this is a dark fairy tale, a story of aspirations that are all set to be fulfilled, set in a world where liberal dreams can come true, where people help each other to nurture talent and achieve their personal best.

On the other hand, there’s a repressed violence threatening to surface, a violence wrought by men, in which the powerful win and do as they wish with the vanquished. This world is largely glimpsed obliquely in the fragments of Josefina’s dreams – but perhaps this is the true world she inhabits.

The two aspects of the film have their own time signatures: Josefina’s story of self-improvement necessarily inhabits a progressive continuity – we see her life develop and bloom as the friends around her help her; whereas the story of male violence comes in short, unexpected bursts.

Andy Hodgson’s cinematography is lush, bright and very wide-screen. It places the characters and their actions in an overwhelming natural environment that is also highly aestheticized. The camera moves minimally within these great human-dwarfing frames.


Bulldog Film Distribution presents The Whisper of Silence on digital HD on 27 March.