“This is not a sad story,” the little girl narrates at the opening of “Louder Than Words.”
The little girl lies.
“Louder Than Words” is a tepid melodrama about the healing power that a death in the family can force upon the survivors.
It’s giving nothing away saying that Maria (Olivia Steel-Falconer), a plucky and wise 13 year-old, dies early in this tale. She had a role in her family — “the glue.” She kept communication channels open between “the triplets” (, Adelaide Kane, Ben Rosenfield, Morgan Griffin) and their mom (Hope Davis). And the adored youngest daughter regularly did maintenance on a quiet, strained marriage between her developer dad (David Duchovny) and mom.
Maria keeps a journal, and that provides some of the narration, even after she gets sick and leaves her family bereft. She’s an observer, and her big observation is about her father.
“Dad doesn’t say the wrong thing. He just doesn’t say anything.”
But he does, to her. That’s a fundamental flaw of the script, describing someone as quiet and taciturn, only to give him lots and lots of lines of dialogue. He clicks with his step-kids, up to a point.
“Looking for something?”
“My long, lost innocence.”
“Ask your mother.”
And he positively dotes on his daughter, Maria.
Benjamin Chapin’s screenplay is about how the family starts to spin apart after Maria’s sudden death. The parents retreat into silent grief, one daughter flees college and heads west, the son hides behind his headphones and his college classmate, the other sister, can’t cope with him and her own grief as well.
The coping mechanisms are familiar — dad hunting for a way to give Maria’s death meaning by planning a children’s hospital, mom running off to college to hang with her surviving children, Christmas in a Chinese restaurant, as if Chinese Americans don’t celebrate the holiday, which reminds the family of their loss.
And the explosions — venting, breaking down, building back up — offer no surprises either.
None of which would be that much of a problem if this had more than the barest whiff of emotion to it. “Sad story” or not, things presented here should inspire tears.
But it’s hard to get too worked up over tragedy and loss when you’ve been lied to, right from the movie’s opening line.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some thematic material and smoking
Cast: Olivia Steele-Falconer, David Duchovny, Hope Davis, Timothy Hutton, Adelaide Kane
Credits: Directed by Anthony Fabian, written by Benjamin Chapin. An Arc Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:33
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