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The Sound of Silence

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Sound of Silence Movie Poster Image
Quirky indie drama about two lonely New Yorkers.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 85 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes being in tune with your surroundings, appreciating differences in sound and how they can affect mood and personality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter is a thorough, methodical thinker and researcher. He perseveres and cares deeply about the power/importance of sound (and lack of it). His work has helped several characters. Ellen is patient and open-minded, wants to give house tuning a chance.

Violence

Peter gets frustrated and angry, throwing and kicking his tuning forks and yelling in frustration.

Sex

Mild flirting/interest between Peter and Ellen.

Language

Very infrequent language includes "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults presumably drink at a couple of dinner parties/receptions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sound of Silence is an indie drama about an eccentric New York sound expert (Peter Sarsgaard) who makes a living as a "house tuner." That means he diagnoses the noise pollution in a particular space and then fixes it in order to better a client's life. There's nothing violent or disturbing in this quirky film: Language is extremely scarce (though "s--t" is said), and there's basically nothing in the way of substance use, sex, or violence. But the movie's character-driven plot and introspective themes won't appeal to most teens, unless they're particular fans of Sarsgaard or co-star Rashida Jones.

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What's the story?

THE SOUND OF SILENCE follows the unconventional story of Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard), a methodical "house tuner" who's made a name for himself by calibrating the sound in New Yorkers' homes to improve their moods and states of mind. In addition to working for paying clients (most of whom are suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, exhaustion, etc.), Peter has been researching for decades to document the exact pitch of every block in the city with hopes of being published in a scientific journal. When new client Ellen (Rashida Jones) hires Peter to tune her apartment but remains unhappy with the results, he becomes increasingly unnerved with his first unsuccessful case.

Is it any good?

Compelling performances from Sarsgaard and Jones make up for the uneven tone of this character-driven directorial debut about the power of sound. There's no shortage of quirky indie films set in Manhattan, so it's difficult to consider this one remarkable, but it's just entertaining enough to merit a viewing. Peter is a fascinating, uncompromising man whose science may not strictly stand up to peer-review standards but who stays steadfastly attached to his theories and methodologies. However wacky he seems, audiences will feel invested in his sounds of the city.

And Jones once again delivers a subtle, nuanced performance as a sad, tired woman whose mood doesn't improve even after Peter's house tuning. She does a fine job in this quiet but strong role. Austin Pendleton and Tony Revolori are also notable in supporting roles as Peter's academic friend and research assistant, respectively. But director Michael Tyburski's first feature owes its star a debt; Sarsgaard carries the film. There's a moment when it's clear that, despite all his research, Peter may never receive the acclaim he believes he merits, and Sargaard nails the scene, evoking the disappointment and despair of dashed dreams -- first in silence, then with sound.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in The Sound of Silence. What do you think of Peter's beliefs about the way sound affects mood? How is noise pollution a problem? What are other ways that sensory issues can impact someone's state of mind?

  • Are there any role models in the movie? How does Peter demonstrate perseverance in the face of uncertainty and even ridicule?

  • Why do you think there are so many movies set in New York City? How does this one use the city as another character in the story?

Movie details

For kids who love quirky movies

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