The Silent Child

Dir: Chris Overton; Writer: Rachel Shenton
Cast: Maisie Sly, Rachel Shenton, Rachel Fielding, Philip York
20 mins, UK 2017

This moving, compassionate Oscar-winning short film – written and directed by former Hollyoaks stars Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton, stars Maisie Sly (from Swindon, a local girl!) as four-year-old Libby, who is profoundly deaf (as is Maisie Sly herself), as she begins to communicate in British Sign Language with a social worker (played by writer Rachel Shenton) who has come to the family home to help prepare Libby for going to mainstream school. Libby’s parents however …

… for a mixture of personal motives don’t want her to learn sign language, but rather want her to lip read so as to appear more ‘normal’. silent child

Maisie Sly is astonishing as lonely misunderstood Libby, who can only look on from outside at a world that excludes her. When she starts signing with Joanne, the social worker, it is as if she has stepped into life and joy.

Although the film tells a specific story about deafness and signing, it illustrates a more general story about difference, diversity, and the importance of inclusiveness. Or in other words, the human need to communicate with each other. The story is almost unbearably sad, but I was cheered up by recalling the images I’d seen on TV of Maisie Sly and her family in LA for the Oscars ceremony – playing, larking about and being part of a loving, laughing, signing family.

The Silent Child was shown on BBC1 on 30 March, and is now available on BBC iPlayer. Watch it as soon as you can!

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