In a silent world, how can one hear the voice of God?
In 1985, Rachel was born into the family of gifted musician Marshall Lawrence and his wife, Terry, a communications professor, along with her 9-year-old sister, Carol, who quickly became incredibly protective of her newborn sister.
Everything was perfect.
Devout Christians, Marshall and Terry had prayed only for a healthy baby and it seemed their prayers had been answered. However, after a few months they began to notice that their experiences with Rachel were quite a bit different than they'd been with Carol. Whereas Carol had mimicked her parents' sounds and babbled, for example, Rachel was a quiet baby making almost no sounds.
At 9 months, they requested Rachel's hearing been checked. They were assured that everything was fine.
By 15 months, Rachel still had not developed any language. Finally, one day, Marshall entered his daughter's room on a rainy day with young Rachel staring out the window and he called out her name.
He called her name again. This time, even louder.
Still no response.
Finally, he shouted her name.
It was then that Marshall realized that Rachel simply wasn't hearing him.
This time, Marshall and Terry would pursue advanced testing that revealed Rachel to be what is termed as "profoundly deaf," experiencing a loss of 95 decibels in each ear.
Initially, the family pursued technology to support their daughter in the hope that hearing aids would allow her to acquire the gift of language. After three years, it was determined to be unsuccessful and it was then that the family visited the Indiana School for the Deaf, where 5-year-old Rachel would for the first time meet children whose circumstances were just like hers.
In a Silent World isn't a film just about being deaf. It isn't a film simply about faith. It's not really even just a film about the love of a family or adapting to disability. Instead, In a Silent World explores the sacredness of the journey in both everyday and seemingly larger than life ways. It's a story of one family's baptism into deaf culture and the wonder of God that has come to life through that journey and through their daughter. It's a film about a family's discovery that their prayers for a "healthy" daughter had, in fact, been answered in glorious but unexpected ways.
Weaving together Rachel's experiences with those of her parents and her sister, In a Silent World explores, perhaps, what it truly means to hear the voice of God and how God, being God, manages to speak to us inevitably in ways we can understand while always providing us with ways to speak back even when not everyone else around us understands.
Written and directed by Donald Boggs, In a Silent World is a simple and straightforward documentary focusing almost exclusively on the experiences of the Lawrence family and those who helped guide Rachel toward the realization of her wondrous being. Utilizing primarily interviews accompanied by simple, hand-drawn graphics that complement the film's simple innocence, In a Silent World tells an involving, engaging story and contains a twist or two you may not expect but will instantly appreciate. It's a quiet little gem of a film, a faith-based and heartfelt story that seeks to inspire and accomplishes its mission tenfold.
Mark G. Dawson's lensing is impeccable throughout the film, while Boggs has clearly worked to relax the family and create an atmosphere where authenticity can flourish and their warm humanity can shine. Rachel is a complete and utter joy, open and honest and engaging and vibrant.
In a Silent World is currently available on both DVD and Blu-ray by visiting the film's official website linked to in the credits. There are a number of settings where In a Silent World would be deeply embraced, ranging from school-based to religious education to simply being in the home of anyone who can appreciate an indie doc that takes an inspirational story and tells it well.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic