As a reviewer I see some really good films. And some really bad films. And don’t forget the truly ugly ones as well. But every once in a while a film so powerful and important comes along that it reinforces for me the reason I write reviews in the first place. A Silent Truth is one of those rare films.
Ian is a young man who has just celebrated his fourteenth birthday. Although his father abandoned his family several years earlier, he has a loving mother and a doting uncle. He has plenty of friends and is well-liked. His grandmother is a strong and loving presence in his life. By all rights, Ian should be a very happy teenager. But Ian has a secret. He’s known about it for a long time and is having a great deal of trouble grappling with this secret and coming to terms with who he really is. You see, Ian is gay. While being a gay teen is tough enough, everywhere he turns he is confronted with insensitive and sometimes cruel comments about homosexuality from both friends and family. Ian is terribly conflicted and it’s coming to a head. Something has to give, and soon.
We first meet Ian as he cries in the bathroom during his own birthday party. The entire neighborhood has come out for the celebration, including his two good friends, both of whom are bullies, his best friend Jess, and the new kid on the block who is openly gay and proud of it. As the story moves forward, Ian is confronted by hateful talk from friends and family. His friends ridicule the new boy behind his back, teasing Ian by telling him the "new kid" was batting his eyes at him. One of his friends ends the conversation by saying, "Man, I’m so glad you are all straight!" Even Ian’s mother puts pressure on him, though she doesn’t realize it. She talks about how he and Jess make such a cute couple and refers to Jess as her "future daughter-in-law". She even calls Ian a "ladies man" and mentions that all the girls at the party had their eyes on him. Everywhere Ian goes, he is confronted with this kind of talk. Much of it isn’t meant to be hurtful, but some of it is blatantly painful, as when his friends use the word "faggot" and Ian’s mother refers to the new boy as "queer."
Ian begins hanging out more with Jess, who is open-minded and kind, as well as the new kid. While walking in town one day, they stop off at the local LGBT center where Ian meets some other gay people. A heated discussion ensues about God, religion, and homosexuality. Unfortunately for Ian, the two bullies see him walking out of the community center. They confront Ian and tell him they plan on outing him to the entire school. As the crisis mounts, Ian tries to figure out the best way to solve this problem, including contemplating suicide. Will Ian finally reveal his sexual orientation to friends and family? Will he be met with support or continued ridicule? Or would it be better if he just ended the pain now by taking his own life? These are painful questions many gay teens grapple with every single day across the world. Some triumph and lead wonderful lives while others, unable to cope with the stress and pain of humiliation, sadly choose a different path to end their troubles.
With A Silent Truth, writer/director Peter Anthony Fields has crafted a very sensitive exploration about how one gay teen confronts his own sexuality as well as the stereotypes he and his loved ones have about being homosexual. Many themes are touched on along the way, including religion versus homosexuality as well as suicide. These are real problems that real people deal with on a daily basis. Fields doesn’t just tackle the stereotypical problems gay teens have with insensitive friends and family, but he also addresses the sometimes traumatic inner turmoil some gay teens live with as they grapple with their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality as well as the guilt they may have for the perceived disappointment they may be to their family. Ian enjoys creative writing and is currently authoring a story about a prince whose mother has no memory of him. These creative and imaginative sequences use some terrific imagery to evoke the feelings that Ian has with this situation.
Fields is a superb writer and a terrific director. The cinematography is excellent and the musical score complements the cinematic themes very well. This is the first film for many of the actors and some of the sequences occasionally betray this fact, but overall the acting is quite good. Daniel Sovich as Ian does a fine job portraying a young man in conflict with himself. He has a very nice range of emotion from happiness and anger and even a crying scene or two. Dani Apple is Jess, Ian’s best friend, who also happens to be female. While Ian is drawn to Jess for her supportive nature, his mother is confused and thinks the two have a budding romance. Ms. Apple is very good as the sensitive and open-minded friend whose support ultimately enables Ian to confront his fears.
This 42-minute film short comes packed with special features, but none more important than the cast and crew interview in which director Fields and all of the major players discuss the reasons for creating this film and the importance for people to treat others with love and understanding. Ultimately, the message is an uplifting one, both in the interview (Fields insists that gay teens should continue to struggle as life is good and things will get better as they get older and learn to deal with their feelings) and in the film itself as Ian admits his sexual orientation and, after a bit of struggle, is accepted by both friends and family for who he is.
In my other life, I am an educator and I spent 15 years in the public schools teaching teenagers. I have personal experience with teens who are conflicted about their sexual orientation and have seen firsthand how painful this process of self-discovery can be. I wish I could say that I never said or did anything that could be construed as hurtful, but that isn’t the case. Perhaps this film struck a chord in me because of my collective experiences with junior high and high school aged kids. A Silent Truth is a sensitively written, deeply moving, and authentic piece of cinema. It is an important film that deals superbly with an important contemporary subject. It should be standard viewing in junior high schools and middle schools across America.
My congratulations to these filmmakers in creating such a powerful and wonderful film. A Silent Truth has just premiered in Kent, Ohio, and should be available soon on DVD. For more information, see www.littlebeth.com.