Sundance Film Festival: ‘Speak No Evil’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Why is it that every single time you go on a family vacation, your parents always want to befriend another family? Isn’t the point of a “family” vacation spending more time together as a unit, away from distractions? Well, in Christian Tafdrup’s twisted, psychological, family thriller Speak No Evil he explores what could possibly go wrong after meeting another family on vacation. It’s always nice to meet new people and have those small conversations just to pass the time, but we never fully know who they are. For all we know, that first impression can be a whole facade, but since the relationship ends after taking that flight home, we truly will never know who we’ve spent all that time with on vacation.

While on holiday in Tuscany, a Danish family becomes fast friends with a fellow travelling family from the Netherlands. Months later, when an invitation arrives encouraging the Danish family to visit the Dutch in their countryside home, they don’t hesitate to plan a quick getaway. Even in reality and not in the context of the film, that seems like a red flag, but as Tufdrup explores the character dynamic between the two couples, it makes more sense as to why the Danish couple would want to meet with them. Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) are more reserved and play by the rules, while Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders) are free spirits, enjoying life with no bounds. Bjorn misses that freedom that he once had as a young boy and enjoys Patrick’s carefree nature because of it.

The Dutch family welcomes the Danish family for the weekend, as they engage in fun conversations over different food and drinks. As the drinks start to flow, Bjørn and Louise start to loosen up but seem to still be uncomfortable with how open Patrick and Karin are with each other in front of them. As the weekend goes on, the couples explore each other’s personalities and test each other’s limits. There is one major confrontation that shifts the dynamic and is the turning point of the film. It so happens that Patrick and Karin aren’t just eccentric and free-spirited, but they are hiding something much more disturbing that unfolds a bit too late in the third act to make a big impact.

Speak No Evil has a very strong premise, a chilling score by Sune “Køter” Kølster, fantastic night shots from the director of photography, Erik Molberg Hansen, and interesting choices made by Tufdrup. The film explores these two couples and how comfortable they feel being in the same house with people they barely know. The third act is quite shocking and it would have been better if there were a bit more development with Patrick and Karin’s backstory. The performances from all four of them were incredibly strong and it was engaging for the most part, just to see what would happen next. It’s a very slow burn that keeps you interested because of how the drama unfolds.

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