Silent Characters on Screen

From Baby Driver to A Quiet Place, films including characters with hearing impairments are slowly becoming more represented in mainstream cinema, with the films encompassing a field of diverse and inclusive ways to represent their characters. The hearing loss often giving their characters a whole other dimension, strength and determination to overcome their obstacles as well as affecting the way that the sound design or music in the film is crafted…

To celebrate the release of the critically acclaimed A Quiet Place, available on Digital Download now and on DVD and Blu-ray August 13, we’re taking a look at just a few characters in recent films with hearing disabilities.

Baby (Baby Driver)

High-speed hero, Baby the music-loving getaway driver is played by Ansel Elgort who suffers from Tinnitus which is characterized by a near-constant ringing in the ears. Due to an accident he had as a child, the ringing doesn’t stop until Baby puts in his earphones to drown out it out, which leads to a pretty iconic soundtrack including songs from James Brown to Queen and some amazing transitions in sound from his earphones to the audience. However, his hearing impairment doesn’t stop Baby from being a high-geared action hero as he works for Doc, a criminal mastermind assisting with violent, bank-robbing felons including Buddy, Bats and Darling who get in and out before it’s too late with a killer song for each job.

Maddie (Hush)

Horror is a genre becoming more and diverse with some very interesting plotlines around disability. Hush follows the character Maddie, a deaf and mute author who lives alone in a remote cabin in the woods. As she settles in for the evening her peace is disturbed when a masked man appears at her door with the intent to murder her. Leaving her alone and terrified, she fights to defend herself in silence against this masked killer. However, Maddie is no victim to this killer as she uses her wits and intelligence to defend herself and stay alive.

Bianca (Creed)

Ambitious and talented, Adonis Creed’s love interest Bianca is a singer/song-writer who wears a hearing aid due to a progressive hearing loss condition. However, this doesn’t stop her from chasing her dreams as she continues to perform and write music. Bianca openly discusses her hearing loss with Adonis, even learning sign language to prepare for the day when she loses her hearing completely. Their love story is one to be remembered as they work as each other’s muses.

Matt Hamil (The Hammer)

Based on the life of the real-life wrestling sensation Matt Hamil played by Russel Harvard, The Hammer is a coming of age story about the life of the first ever deaf wrestler and his journey to win a National Collegiate Championship. Raised amongst those with the ability to hear, he finds himself no less an outsider within the Deaf community. Overcoming many obstacles and staying determined, Matt releases his frustrations on the wrestling mat and in the process serves as an inspiration for both those who can hear and those who cannot.

Ben & Rose (Wonderstruck)

Wonderstruck follows the stories of two children 50 years apart who run away to New York, to seek answers and both happen to have hearing impairments. Ben whose story is set in 1977 is an orphan whose mother recently died in a car accident and is searching for the identity of his father. However, as he gathers his things to search for his father he is struck by a freak lighting strike and is left deaf but still able to speak. The parallel story follows Rose, played by Millicent Simmonds (who also stars in A Quiet Place) who has been deaf since birth. She seeks to connect with her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew, a famous actress in the silent era. The film jumps between these storylines with some mysterious connections.

Regan (A Quiet Place)

If they hear you, they hunt you. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, strange alien creatures which hunt by the slightest sounds have wiped out a majority of the human race. The story follows the Abbott family who have survived a year living amongst these deadly creatures, including their daughter Regan, played again by Millicent Simmonds. As almost an asset to their survival, Regan is congenitally deaf which means that the family are able to communicate through American Sign Language. Feeling guilt-ridden for the death of her younger brother, Regan ends up the heroin of the film as her cochlear implants come to very good use. The film also uses sound design to emphasise Regan’s hearing loss by cutting the sound completely on every close up shot of her to show the audience exactly what she would be hearing.

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