Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
In 1996, Australian director Rolf de Heer made The Quiet Room about a mentally retarded boy locked in a room by his mother. He continues to explore challenges to the human spirit, teaming here with cerebral palsy victim Heather Rose whose small role in de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby (1993) led to her interest in filmmaking. The wheelchair-bound Rose, who cannot walk, feed or dress herself, communicates via her computerized electronic voice synthesizer. She overcame these obstacles to collaborate with writer Frederick Stahl on this drama, created the lead role of Julia for herself, and brought the project to de Heer. Julia's sympathetic lesbian sister Rix (Rena Owen) is not in a position to take care of her sibling's needs. Instead, Julia depends on an abusive, short-tempered caretaker Madelaine (Joey Kennedy), who calls Julia a "spastic," abandons her on the toilet, leaves the wheels locked on the wheelchair, and devises further torment by forcing Julia to watch her intimacies with a parade of boyfriends. This pattern heads in a different direction after Julia bumps her wheelchair into Eddie (John Brumpton), who becomes her companion. But Julia wants love and sex, not just companionship -- and Madelaine is jealous. The 30-day shoot sometimes worked around Rose's usual routines, as de Heer explained, "Lunch takes her two hours, and there's no way you can make it go faster...The nature of response is different, the nature of physical handling is different, the nature of set-up time is different...It's impossible to overstate the courage of the performance you see on the screen. Rose somehow found the means to respond on cue, to maintain the concentration, to move in the desired direction, all the myriad of acting fundamentals we take for granted as normal things in our normal lives." The result brought a standing ovation at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, where it was shown in competition.
High Production Values