The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Silent Thief

We've all heard of identity theft, but the new independent film The Silent Thief shows a different level of the crime. This is the story of a troubled young man who almost literally tries to become someone else. Filmmaker Jennifer Clary made a couple of short films I admired (Dirty Girl and The Christmas Conspiracy). With this, her debut feature-length production, she shows admirable storytelling ambitions. The Silent Thief, like many indie productions, has a few rough edges, yet it also has that essential quality of being worthy of dissection. The way the themes play themselves out will have audience members talking afterward.

Toby Hemingway (In Time) plays Brennan Marley, a troubled young drifter. He rents a room in the home of Candi and Howard Henderson (Frances Fisher and Kurt Fuller), whose beloved son Mike is away at college. It doesn't take long for Brennan to try ingratiating himself with the family. Candi likes having a surrogate son because she desperately misses her real one. Daughter Elise (Scout Taylor-Compton) is attracted to Brennan, so she enjoys having him around too. Howard is the only one who's distrustful; his pride in Mike is so strong that he resents an outsider even inhabiting the same space that his son normally resides in. When Mike (Cody Longo) comes home for a visit, he's not wild about Brennan's presence either. The stuff in his room is all moved around, and the outsider acts strangely in the presence of Mike's friend Alex (The Social Network's Josh Pense). With Mike back in the picture, Brennan feels himself being eased out, much to his displeasure. Eventually, he begins physically reshaping his appearance to look more like Mike. And then things get really freaky as his transformation goes beyond mere looks.

The Silent Thief takes some real chances. Despite how that plot description might sound, this is not simply a Single White Female ripoff. Clary is very interested in exploring personality dysfunction. Over the course of the movie, we learn that Brennan is emotionally damaged, yearning for something he thinks the Hendersons can provide him with. When his house of cards begins to fall apart, his actions become increasingly erratic and troublesome. The movie is fascinatingly specific in the way it takes us into his psyche, suggesting a mental frailty that threatens anyone who upsets the delicate balance. I especially like a stylistic choice in which Clary depicts bad memories by assembling Brennan's still photos into an eerie, strobe-lit nightmare.

The performances are very good across the board. Fisher and Fuller two consistently solid actors effectively convey the tension that comes from their characters' differing levels of acceptance for their house guest. Scout Taylor-Compton establishes an authentic sense of forbidden attraction, while Cody Longo nicely brings to life Mike's resentment of the outsider. Toby Hemingway is probably the standout, though, turning in strong work as a tormented soul. You don't always like what this kid does, but you feel for him.

I suspect the ending to The Silent Thief will get people debating. The film studiously avoids the kind of ultra-violent finale that a mainstream Hollywood movie would go for in a heartbeat. In its place is something quieter, yet also more disturbing. Some viewers will feel that what happens isn't completely justified that it seems out of character for those involved, especially when another option exists. Others will find it a forceful statement of the unpredictable ways people behave when the chips are really down. Personally, I have great appreciation for movies that get people discussing and debating; The Silent Thief won't leave many audience members feeling neutral, and that's what makes it notable.

The film is currently playing the festival circuit. For information on when/where you can see it, please visit the official website.

The Silent Thief is unrated but contains language, sexuality, and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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