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"Silent Cry" is a twenty-first century thriller with roots in the British tradition of "kitchen sink" social realism. The main character is Rachel Stewart, a single mother who is told that her baby has died only a few hours after she gave birth to him. Her suspicions are aroused, however, by the behaviour of the doctors involved and their reluctance to let her see the body. Suspecting that her baby may have been kidnapped, she attempts to uncover the truth with the help of Daniel Stone, a sympathetic hospital porter. Their investigations lead them into danger when they discover that a ruthless gang have been abducting babies for adoption by childless couples. They are, however, unable to inform the police as the leader of the gang is himself a police officer.
In their heyday in the fifties and sixties, British kitchen sink films mostly dealt with working-class life. "Silent Cry" deals not so much with the traditional working class as with the modern underclass of drug addicts, prostitutes and petty criminals. Apart from the villains, who are largely middle-class Establishment figures such as doctors and policemen, about the only character who has a job is Daniel, and even he is a reformed ex-convict recently released from jail. I was reminded of "Dirty Pretty Things", another British social-realist thriller from 2002 which also had a hospital setting and which dealt with London's underclass and with a sinister conspiracy among members of the medical profession. (One difference, however, is that "Dirty Pretty Things" dealt mostly with members of various immigrant communities, whereas in "Silent Cry" nearly all the characters are white British).
Besides its links with the British social realist tradition, the film also has some similarities with American neo-noir crime dramas such as "L.A. Confidential". Films of this type attempt to capture something of the spirit of the films noirs of the forties and fifties, and often have complex plots involving widespread corruption and wrongdoing, particularly by those in positions of authority. There was, however, always more to film noir than a crime-related theme and a complicated storyline; atmosphere was equally important, and neo-noir directors are often able to give their films an atmospheric look equivalent to the moody black-and-white photography of classic noir. Director Julian Richards achieves that here with a bleak, faded look appropriate to the film's grim subject matter and to the stark, bare hospital corridors, shabby, dilapidated flats and urban wastelands against which it is shot.
The acting is good, especially from Emily Woof as the vulnerable but determined heroine and from Clive Russell as the menacing villain Dennis Betts. I would not rate the film quite as highly as "Dirty Pretty Things", which I felt had a greater insight into social issues, but "Silent Cry" is a gripping, well-made thriller which holds the attention and does not (unlike many recent American thrillers) waste time on unconvincing or unnecessary plot twists. 7/10
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