Mad with grief after the death of his Kiowa wife, Talbot awaits death under a tree with her body beside him. She begins to haunt him because he won't burn her. His father, who bought him the wife, thinks her sister might reason with him.
Dealing with nuclear testing and its long-lasting deadly effects, the story portrays Boy, a young widower living in the desert on a nuclear testing site. Living as a hermit, he waits for ... See full summary »
It's 1873, Indian Territory. Talbot Roe is going mad with grief over losing his Indian wife, Awbonnie. In an effort to save him, his father, Prescott Roe, seeks to purchase the dead wife's sister, Velada, from the same traveling carnival he acquired Awbonnie. The girls' father, carnival master Eamon McCree, is willing to do business, but her step-brother, Reeves, protests, putting an end to the negotiation. Desperate, Prescott kidnaps Velada and promises her the means to be rid of her father in return for comforting Talbot out of his obsession. In Talbot's madness, he guards his wife's corpse, preventing her from passing to the beyond. As a result, Awbonnie's ghost begins haunting and cursing everyone involved in the transaction of selling her as a wife. Meanwhile, Reeves and Eamon search the prairie for Velada. Drunken Eamon several times wants to turn back and leave his daughter to her own devices, but Reeves refuses. At the site of a hunting party of Indians, Eamon panics and loses... Written by
Sam Shepard, the writer/director of "Silent Tongue," is one of the big names in contemporary American theatre. So it comes as no surprise that his two feature films (also, "Far North") have a distinctly theatrical tone. General audiences may not have a taste for his style, but Shepard's films richly reward multiple viewings for the open-minded.
"Silent Tongue" is a ghost story which uncovers a disturbing sickness at the heart of the Old West. River Phoenix becomes mentally unhinged when his Native American bride dies in childbirth. This sends his father, Richard Harris, on a journey to try and find another woman for his son. Exhibiting tragically limited imagination, the father returns to the traveling circus where he traded horses for the first woman, and he attempt a second bargain for the woman's sister. In the end, the sister must confront the dead woman's ghost, and we learn the dark secret of their past.
Phoenix is eerily convincing as the mad Talbot Roe, and Richard Harris is uncharacteristic low-key as the world-weary Prescott Roe. Dermot Mulroney, unable to make his character's diction convincing, is perhaps the film's only casting error.
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