Ju-ran (Bo-young Park) is being sent away. Suffering from some sort of chronic illness, her parents know nothing else to do but to ship her off to a sanatorium/boarding school, where her health will hopefully improve.
After arriving, things do improve… at first. The young woman makes a close friend, and the treatment she’s receiving seems to be working.
But something strange is going on at the school. Students are disappearing, and as time passes, Ju-ran begins to notice strange side effects to her own treatment.
The school’s staff assures her she’s imagining things, but could something sinister be happening at the school? Ju-ran becomes determined to find out.
The Silenced was written and directed by Hae-yeong Lee.
Though set in the 1930s, crisp photography and plain boarding school costumes give The Silenced a more timeless look. It’s beautifully shot and designed, sometimes jaw-droppingly stunning. That overgrown woodland pond! That underwater scene! Gorgeous.
Beyond its visual appeal, the boarding school setting is great for adding some suspense, as none of the staff will ‘fess up to what’s really going on. Is Ju-ran “crazy,” or is the school hiding some very dark secrets? It seems highly plausible to the viewer throughout that Ju-ran is not overly-imaginative or paranoid, but being gaslighted by the headmistress and her staff.
Park does well in her role. With her character being the center of the film, she does quite a nice job of drawing the viewer in and gaining our sympathy. At the opposite end of the spectrum is her headmistress, a stubborn, gun-toting, red-lipped master of intimidation, portrayed excellently by Ji-won Uhm.
The pace of the film is quite slow and calm. It’s billed as a horror film on Netflix, but that label doesn’t really fit. There are a few spooky scenes, plus elements of mystery and sci-fi (superpowers!), but the film doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre. In tone, it sort of reminded me of Shutter Island, with its confined setting, experimentation, and mysterious circumstances.
While the pace is slow, the film is nowhere near dull, and while I’ve seen largely middling or negative reviews for it elsewhere, I would recommend giving it a look. The premise, while not entirely unfamiliar, is fascinating. If you like slow-burning dramas with elements of psychological thriller or sci-fi, you’ll probably enjoy it, as I certainly did.